How often do you have to do the same things at the same time before they become a tradition? Tradition is a word we hear a lot at Christmas, and of course there are lots of things which are considered traditional at Christmas traditions but for how long have they been traditions and how long were they done before they were considered so?
Take turkey for instance, it’s traditional to eat one at Christmas isn’t it? For some it definitely is but here in Britain we’ve only been eating turkeys in any quantity since the 1950s. Before that it was a luxury and the traditional bird was goose. We eat approximately ten million turkeys during the festive season – that’s between us, not each – and anyone who doesn’t have one plucked and stuffed by Christmas Eve risks a visit from the ghost of Bernard Matthews dragging long chains of turkey twizzlers behind him and muttering ‘Bootiful’ in a spectral Norfolk accent.
For families of course the period over which something becomes a tradition is shorter still. Something may only have to happen for a couple of years and it’s a tradition, hence my original question. You see this will be the fourth year on the trot that I’ve been to the DanceEast Christmas show, so is that a tradition yet? In truth what matters more is that it’s something I really look forward to and despite dance being a genre about which I know relatively little, the DanceEast show is the one piece of Christmas theatre that I would definitely not miss. What makes it even stranger is that the shows themselves do not even appear to be particularly Christmassy – and yet somehow they are?!
Take this year’s offering for instance, Chotto Desh. It is a cross-cultural story of a young man’s journey from Bangladesh to Britain which merges dreams and memories using a magical mix of dance, text, visuals and sound. When choreographer Akram Khan, who was responsible for choreographing a section of the London Olympic opening ceremony, first presented this production back in 2011 it was a huge hit with audiences. Now he and Theatre-Rites director Sue Buckmaster have adapted it for a family audience (age guidance 7+) and judging by the trailer, which you can see here https://vimeo.com/143721737, they have done a fantastic job.
A story which conjours up crocodiles and elephants to a modern, electronica-grooved, south Asian musical accompaniment doesn’t shout Christmas does it? And yet, despite the exotic setting, steaming with the implied heat of the jungle, there is something in the delicate story-telling and dramatic dance moves which seem to conjour the magic and thrill of Christmas – just not in a snow-crusted, pheasant-n-present decked stagecoachy kind of way.
Chotto Desh, which translates as ‘small homeland’, had its World premiere at Jerwood DanceHouse in October before transfering to Sadlers Wells and luckily for those who did not catch it then it will be back in Ipswich from the 16th to the 20th of December. The secret of the season defying, yet deliciously heart-warming performance that is the DanceEast Christmas Show is becoming less of a secret every year and as I write two of the seven performances are already sold out. Therefore if you and the family (or perhaps a date you’d love to enchant) fancy something visually different yet emotionally familiar this year then you’d best get your tickets quickly. They’re priced £10 for adults, £7 concessions or £30 for 4 (max 2 adults) on a family ticket. You can book online at http://www.danceeast.co.uk/ or by calling 01473 295230.
Whilst you’re there you might also like to take a look at a show that is coming up in January. Arthur Pita’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Little Match Girl was the Christmas Show at DanceEast back in 2013 and when I saw it back then I declared it the best Christmas show I’d ever seen. Despite last year’s DanceEast offering ‘Butterflies’ coming close last year it remains so but don’t let that put you off seeing it simply because it’s in January. As I’ve said above these shows are not Christmassy per se, they’re simply magical and transportatinal and will work just as well at a different time of year. There are only three performances; two on Jan 22nd and a matinee on Jan 23rd. With tickets at £7 adults, £5 children and £20 for a family Little Match Girl is an early front-runner for ticket bargain of the year.
So that’s about it for this year. If you’ve still got an awkward member of the family or a secret santa to buy presents for then may I offer the suggestion of Theatre Tokens. Most of the regions venues sell them and they have the advantage of being thoughtful whilst also letting someone decide for themselves what they’d enjoy. Have a great Christmas.