Hijinx Unity Festival describes itself as “a surprisingly different arts festival” – and it truly is. Known for celebrating inclusive and disability arts, the festival also has a large international element. Year after year it has showcased performers and companies from all over the UK and Europe, and cast its net even further afield to secure the best in disability and inclusive arts. In 2012, Australia’s Back to Back Theatre captivated audiences with their performance of Small Metal Objects, and for the first time this year, Hijinx Unity Festival presents an African company – Mozambican Panaibra Gabriel Canda and CulturArte.
Canda is the choreographer and artistic director of CulturArte, which he set up in 1998 to be more than just a dance company, but a centre for the development of contemporary performing arts in Maputo, Mozambique. Through CulturArte, Canda has been involved with numerous projects that have helped to develop and foster the contemporary dance scene in Mozambique, and in 2007 he started a new project, (IN) DEPENDENCE, with people with and without physical disabilities.
CulturArte bring Borderlines to Hijinx Unity Festival 2015, the third piece of performance art in the (IN) DEPENDENCE trilogy. Inspired by the historic civil war in Mozambique, Borderlines exposes some of the forces at work at the heart of human conflict – superiority and domination, freedom and imposition, desire and hatred – and searches for a world where differences can co-exist peacefully.
Numerous companies will be visiting the festival this year from around Europe, including Belgium’s Theater Stap, Teatro la Ribalta from Italy, and 2013 festival favourites Cirque Inextremiste from France.
Theater Stap put performers with learning disabilities centre stage. With Krokusfestival, they present zwaluwzang / a swallow song in which dancers Kwint Manshoven and Jason Van Laere are two men on a journey. Although it is important, they don’t dare to tell why they have left. They are not entirely sure where they are heading, or whether they will know when they have arrived. This is a captivating dance performance about friendship across many borders.
Teatro la Ribalta is Italy’s first professional theatre company comprised of performers with disabilities. They will perform a piece called Nessuno sa di noi, which means Nobody knows about us. It features and is choreographed by Julie Anne Stanzak of the Pina Bausch Wuppertal Dance Theatre, alongside Mattia Peretto, a performer with Down’s syndrome. Through spell-binding and sensual dance theatre, two wildly contrasting characters search for a good balance between closeness and distance.
In 2013, Cirque Inextremiste came to Wales and Hijinx Unity Festival for the first time with their show Extrêmités. Their world of gas canisters and scaffolding – always in danger of collapse – was a hit with the Unity audience so back by popular demand they will once again be performing Extrêmités this year, as well as going bigger and better with Extension, which sees one performer trade in his wheelchair for a mini-digger!
Throw into the mix companies from Germany and Spain, as well as home grown talent from the UK, and you have the makings of an international festival to remember!