LEAP festival kicks off 25th anniversary with a home to call its own. By Damon Fairclough

LIVERPOOL'S LEAP festival has long championed the kind of cutting-edge dance that gets on very well without tutus and dying swans, but which can sometimes seem like one of the city’s less visible art forms.

It makes sense then that the theme for its 25th anniversary season (1-12 March) is Camouflage – Seen and Unseen, which organisers say offers them a chance “to shine a light on dance in Liverpool”.

I feel confident that a city as politically and socially aware as Liverpool will take Coal to its heart

Since its inception in 1992, LEAP has used a variety of venues, including the Unity and the Capstone Theatre, but for the 2017 vintage it will be opening its own dedicated dance house – a “pop-up”, rather than the less energetic sounding “temporary” venue – in the heart of the newly branded Ten Streets district in the north docks.

Following a Kickstarter campaign that raised over £5,000 to support the venue’s creation, LEAP 2017 is taking over the Make Liverpool warehouse space on Regent Street, which overlooks the Invisible Wind Factory. They promise “a fully accessible performance space and festival hub with full catering facilities, bar and exhibition spaces.”

The LEAP festival is organised by Hope Street-based Merseyside Dance Initiative, an organisation that supports artists and runs a range of dance projects and services in communities across Liverpool.

The artistic director of MDI, Karen Gallagher, says: “LEAP 2017 is a celebration of 25 years of dance in Liverpool and we are as passionate as ever about the ‘coming of age of dance’ in the city. We are seeing dance reach a wider audience than ever before, and as always, LEAP will produce inspirational and challenging productions.”

So which companies and productions will be popping up in the pop-up?

Kicking things off will be choreographer Gary Clarke, whose show Coal (main picture and above) digs back through time to revisit the miners’ strike of 1984-85.

According to Clarke, the piece is “a direct response to my upbringing in the working-class mining village of Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire. I feel confident that a city as politically and socially aware as Liverpool will take Coal to its heart and give us the greatest start to our touring year.”

Following Clarke’s company onto the LEAP 2017 stage will be Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballet (above) with their piece Whiteout, which explores bi-racial relationships. Other visitors include Stopgap Dance Company from Surrey, Mary Pearson with her “cinematic visual feast” FoMO MOFOs!, and Hetain Patel’s provocative new piece American Man.

There’s also a community showcase celebrating 25 years of LEAP, and a series of workshops and performances for and by older people.

Although MDI works hard all year round to engage communities and increase the impact that dance has on lives across Liverpool and beyond, the art form has a sporadic presence on city stages. By creating a dedicated venue, even if only for a couple of weeks, LEAP 2017 will be hoping to build on its previous festivals by finally giving city dance fans a home to call their own.

LEAP 2017 runs from 1-12 March 2017 at Make Liverpool, 34 Regent St, Liverpool L3, behind the Invisible Wind Factory. The full festival programme and further information can be found here.