At some point in the last few years, Brighton's Festival and Fringe have evolved from "something that's happening over there" to an unmissable event to catch some truly amazing and otherwise-sold-out shows. Last year, Complicite's The Encounter was on: solidly sold out for its run at London's Barbican Centre, this was a unique opportunity to see it in a comparatively intimate venue. This year, it's Michael Keegan-Dolan's Swan Lake: I don't care how far you have to travel to see it, make sure you see it. And also Liz Aggiss's Slap and Tickle, while you're at it. And then there's the premiere of Theo Clinkard's new work, so I hope you have your credit card at the ready.


At the top of our list for last year was Sarah Blanc, Liz Aggiss and Lost Dog; Lost Dog is very busy with rural touring, but Liz Aggiss is back with the same work, Sarah Blanc is back with a new work, and Michael Keegan-Dolan's Swan Lake is spectacular, so those are my three top picks. But because I'm biased, here's a spreadsheet for you to plan what you want to see: Dance at Brighton Fringe 2017

Please bear in mind that these shows sell out, so please don't leave it too late to get your tickets. Especially if you have to brave the pain and misery that is Southern Rail to get there in the first place. Also, there are some discount codes for some of the Festival shows, so I've included them where applicable.

Brighton Festival shows

Joan Clevillé - 'Plan B For Utopia': 7 & 8 May
Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/10965/plan_b_for_utopia/
Website: http://www.joanclevilledance.com/
Article19 Feature: https://player.vimeo.com/video/154515475
Discount code: Use code "TRYFOR10" to book £10 tickets (usually £15)

Joan Clevillé takes a break from rural touring and the premiere of his new work at Dance International Glasgow 2017 to present his much-loved Plan B For Utopia, which has gone from strength to strength since its premiere at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe at Dance Base: it has been part of BDE, Internationale Tanzmesse and at other international festivals as well as a very successful UK tour both on and off the rural touring network.

There are unforgettable performances from Solène Weinachter and John Kendall, but that's about as much as I can say without spoilers, except that if you're after a show with lots of pretty dance, this isn't the show for you. Or perhaps it is.

Michael Keegan-Dolan - 'Swan Lake' (Loch na hEala): 9 & 10 May
Brighton Dome Concert Hall
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/10967/swan_lake/
Website: http://swanlake.teacdamsa.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Bg3zNjTPZQ

Several months ago, I was enjoying a nice lazy Saturday morning back in Leeds when I saw a tweet by Luke Jennings enthusing about this show, which was halfway through its sold-out two-night run at Sadler's Wells, so as soon as I managed to find a pair of tickets, I quickly booked a train to London and packed a bag and it was so worth it. Be warned, though, that this show has nearly sold out already, so do not wait to get your tickets for it!

This is in no way a traditional or remotely classical Swan Lake. Michael Keegan-Dolan strips the story back to its darker roots, and we see a collection of strong, memorable and flawed personalities against the primal origins of the Swan Lake story. Did I mention that this isn't to be missed? It's not to be missed.

Vincent Dance Theatre - 'Virgin Territory': 10-14, 17-21 May
ONCA Gallery
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/10969/virgin_territory/
Website: http://www.vincentdt.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdPBBWIYk9s

Following a long research process, Vincent Dance Theatre's 'Virgin Territory' finally premieres: it's a challenging and uncompromising work which explores what it's like for young people to live in an over-stimulating, over-sexualised, digitally-captured world where bodies are exposed, identities are faked and our deepest truths remain hidden. Promising Charlotte Vincent's trademark black humour, this is a very welcome opportunity to see one of the UK's leading choreographers tackle such a topical issue.

Probe Project - 'Now You See It': 14 May
Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/10983/now_you_see_it/
Website: http://probeproject.com/
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/205280491
Discount code: Use code "TRYFOR10" to get £10 tickets (usually £15)

Antonia Grove is wonderful to watch as a dancer, and her new solo looks to be extremely rich in content from its trailer, presenting "vivid life the internal universe of a woman contemplating her past and reconsidering her strategies for survival. It is a dialogue between wonder and reason, reality and imagination, small ideas and mammoth consequences, Now You See It marries straight talking dance with story-telling, anecdotes and a little bit of magic."

We'd recommend seeing it simply to see Antonia's work and performance; it was a lovely treat to see her in Charles Linehan's 'A Quarter Plus Green' in last year's Brighton Festival.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui - 'm¡longa': 19 May
Brighton Dome Concert Hall
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/11022/mlonga/
Website: http://www.east-man.be/en/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kytOrqqiO2w

I was in the opposite end of the UK when this was on in London a few years ago, but if you love tango, make sure you get tickets to see this.

The Hiccup Project - "It's okay, I'm dealing with it": 24 May
The Spire
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/11023/its_okay_im_dealing_with_it/
Website: http://thehiccupproject.com/
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/165205922
Discount code: Use code: "TRYFOR5" to get £5 tickets (usually £12.50)

We're very grateful to The Hiccup Project for reviving this show, as it completely sold out last year, and no amount of begging or grovelling could get me a ticket. The Hiccup Project is one of Brighton's rising dance theatre stars, accumulating awards and prizes as they go for their heartwarming, honest and endearing performances. This show explores how we cope with our imperfections and vulnerabilities, and they were mentored by Ben Duke, Tim Casson and Lou Cope during its creation, so it should be really pretty spectacular. As well as sold out.

The Hiccup Project - "May We Go Round?": 24 May
The Spire
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/11025/may-we-go-round/
Website: http://thehiccupproject.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK73B2JRXCo
Discount code: Use code "TRYFOR5" to get £5 tickets (usually £12.50)

This is a very heartwarming show by Chess Dillon-Reams and Cristina MacKerron which uses dance, theatre and comedy to explore their romantic tales and episodes, with plenty of humour and wit. Premiering in 2014, this show won The Pebble Trust Brighton Fringe Award, the Fringe Review Award for Outstanding Theatre and South East Dance's Space to Dance Award. It's lovely. Go see it.

Theo Clinkard - 'This Bright Field': 25 May
Brighton Dome Concert Hall
Details: http://brightonfestival.org/event/10984/this_bright_field/
Website: http://www.theoclinkard.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMbyW-vRE6o

An Associate Artist at Brighton's Dome, not only is Theo Clinkard one of Brighton's most significant choreographers, he's also one of the dance industry's best-loved choreographers and teachers, as well as being very eloquent spokesperson on a wide range of topics. This is the world premiere of his newest work for his company, which promises to be an important piece. If you're not familiar with his style, do check the trailer for a taster.  

Brighton Fringe

Brighton Dance Network - 'The Dance Trail 2017': 5 - 7 May
Around Brighton and Hove; meet at Montpelier Place Baptist Church
Details: https://www.brightonfringe.org/box-office/shows/view/dance-trail-2017
Website: http://brightondancenetwork.wixsite.com/brightondancenetwork
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dbpV77e5x4

Each year, Brighton's dance community - the Brighton Dance Network (which I suppose I'm a very absent member of) - creates a promenade work for the Brighton Fringe, offering audiences dance in unusual and unexpected places as they're taken around the city. This year, the promenade will cover the boundary between Brighton and Hove, and considering the quality of dance artists in Brighton, this really should be worth seeing.

TRIBE// (Victoria Fox) - 'Still I Rise': 6 May
Details: https://www.brightonfringe.org/box-office/shows/view/still-i-rise
Website: https://www.facebook.com/thetribecompany/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_nY1ZfDIrg

Formerly a dancer with Candoco and Jasmin Vardimon Company, Brighton-based choreographer Victoria Fox has been working on a new piece 'Still I Rise', inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, discussing struggle and rising up from it. I saw a sharing of it some months ago, and even then it was very impressive: a strong work with very powerful and defiant performances by its all-female cast, and that was only from a few extracts of it. If you want to see some unadulterated dance by some wonderful dancers, then this is the piece for you.

Sarah Blanc - 'My Feminist Boner': 10, 22 - 23 May
The Warren: Studio 3
Details: https://www.brightonfringe.org/box-office/shows/view/my-feminist-boner
Website: http://sarahblanc.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU9qoCKTHj8

Sarah Blanc is something of a genius, and you'll know that if you caught her tribute to Jason Donovan at last year's Brighton Fringe, or the Edinburgh Fringe the year before that. As presenter for InsideDance TV and Arts Streaming TV, Sarah is absolutely natural onstage whether she's dancing, presenting, telling a personal story or a hilarious story: she's just wonderful to watch, whatever she does. 'My Feminist Boner' is her newest work (which I'll catch a preview of in a week) which apparently explores the murky world of over-the-counter beauty contraptions - and all for your benefit.

If you thought that dance couldn't be funny, then I recommend you see this.

Liz Aggiss - 'Slap & Tickle': 14 May
The Old Market
Details: https://www.brightonfringe.org/box-office/shows/view/slap-and-tickle
Website: http://www.lizaggiss.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emLbhTUZYus

There is only one Liz Aggiss, and she's impossible to define. She alternately describes herself as an 'enfant terrible of the bus pass generation', 'maverick, anarchic, indomitable and fearless', 'devoid of ordinariness or political correctness', 'machine gun of visual joy', while Lyn Gardner of the Guardian has described this show as 'a pointed and bawdily funny exploration of what it means to refuse to act your age.'

While Slap & Tickle broadly explores women's stereotypes, "lurching from spoken word to expressionist movement, music hall to radio nostalgia, costume change to prop manipulation", it's a very compelling show to watch, not least because there isn't anything else like it out there. Except for Liz's previous works.

Oh, and she promises a party.

Ceyda Tanc Dance - 'AY | NA': 14 May
The Old Market
Details: https://www.brightonfringe.org/box-office/shows/view/ay-na
Website: http://www.ceydatancdance.com/
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/181070311

Since she graduated in 2011, Ceyda Tanc has developed her signature movement language which fuses her traditional Turkish heritage with her contemporary dance training, using percussive music to accentuate and emphasise her choreography. She has also been contributing significantly to Brighton's dance community, with a youth dance company and her own dance studio, a resource which is in very short supply in Brighton.

AY | NA is her latest work, and although few details are given, you can expect striking imagery and strong performances, while I enjoy watching Ceyda's movement language evolve over time. That's how it should be.