The Dance Biennial
Last updated date : 10/11/2023
Every two years, alternating with the Contemporary Art Biennale, the Dance Biennale brings the Lyon metropolitan area into step with its tempo. In 2023, this festival will celebrate its twentieth anniversary and the good news is that everybody is invited!
Presentation of the Lyon Dance Biennale
The Lyon Dance Biennale aims to make contemporary dance accessible, to discover budding talent and rising stars, and even to teach dance! Held in odd years and lasting for nearly three weeks, its contagious energy sweeps through the city and the surrounding region. Everybody is welcome to join in!
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Birth of a biennial ballet
In 1984, Guy Darmet had a novel and ambitious idea to create a festival dedicated to contemporary dance in Lyon. The Lyon Dance Biennale was born! The association that initiated the project was supported by the City of Lyon and the Maison de la Danse, whose director was then Guy Darmet. The aim was to promote accessibility in an artistic discipline that is fascinating yet hard to understand, and to bring it to the widest possible audience. Even though it attracted 30,000 spectators in its first year, the association did not manage to break even. The mayor of Lyon at the time, Francisque Collomb, therefore proposed to continue the project by alternating it: first with the Hector Berlioz International Music Festival; then later, beginning in 1991, with the Contemporary Art Biennale. In 2011, this organisation was named ‘La Biennale de Lyon’ (the Lyon Biennale).
From the outset, Guy Darmet wanted to spark the curiosity of the people of Lyon and introduce them to contemporary dance forms, stemming from different traditions and countries. This involved performances, of course, but much more than that. The audience was invited to enter the world of dance by taking part in classes and gatherings. It was an eclectic, fun, unifying and modern festival.
In 2012, Guy Darmet was replaced by the choreographer Dominique Hervieu, who was then followed by Tiago Guedes, in 2022. While the spirit of the festival has remained unchanged, its new director plans to bring together the Maison de la Danse, the Lyon Biennale and the Dance Workshops within the project ‘ON(L)Y Danse – un futur partagé pour la danse à Lyon’ (ON(L)Y Danse – a shared future for dance in Lyon). The aim is to give them a common identity, while creating an ambitious artistic space and raising the festival’s profile on the global stage.
Where to see the Dance Biennale?
During the festival, choreographies are performed throughout Greater Lyon. The last time it was held, 37 towns in the metropolitan area and in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region made 48 venues available to receive 127 performances and 495 artists. Among them were the Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse, the Charlie Chaplin cultural centre in Vaulx-en-Velin, Le Toboggan in Décines, the Part-Dieu shopping centre, Les Subs, the banks of the Saône in Lyon’s 1st district, and the TNP in Villeurbanne. We must not forget to mention the Maison de la Danse, of course, which is one of the event’s main venues each time it is held! The Lyon Dance Biennale is therefore also a chance to (re)discover iconic, historic and cultural places in Lyon and the surrounding area.
The iconic locations of the Lyon Dance Biennale
Highlights and previous years
Every two years, the Lyon Dance Biennale makes a lasting impression. Firstly thanks to its parade, first introduced in 1996 and now an essential part of the event, where the whole city is invited to move, sing, celebrate, and honour outdoor dancing in the heart of Lyon, the capital of the Gauls! The parade sets the tone and the theme of each Biennale, such as ‘The Silk Road’ in 2000, ‘Legends of the Future’ in 2008 and ‘For Peace’ in 2016.
It was during the Terra Latina edition, in 2002, that the dance classes on the square of Place des Terreaux were organised for the first time, which have now become a fixture of the Biennale. With the aim of encouraging public involvement and sharing with as wide an audience as possible, in 2015, ‘Fabrique de l'amateur’ was created, including a kids dance battle, a flashmob and other artistic experiences that bring together amateur and professional dancers.
A 19th edition packed with fresh ideas
As we have seen, each year, the programme of the Lyon Dance Biennale is as exciting as it is ambitious. However, the last edition stood out with a series of totally new additions. In 2021, following the end of lockdown, the 19th edition had to reinvent itself, with much less time available to organise it and limited capacity.
- With Africa as its theme, the parade marking the start of the festival took the form of a show in the Grand Theatre of Fourvière.
- Then there was ‘Expérience Fagor’, a new form of popular gathering. Held in the former Fagor Factories, and celebrating the values of inclusiveness and interactivity, the programme brought together 222 dancers, including 109 amateurs and art school students aged 15 to 25. It was built on artistic proposals, including performances, installations, debates and masterclasses, which were free and open to all.
- There was also ‘Focus Danse’, an international professional gathering, which was based on a digital platform. New formats were created to get around the restrictions, reuniting artists and the public with even more enthusiasm than before.
So what does the next edition in 2023 have in store for us? One thing is certain, we will be there to find out!
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