Mary Brennan

In April of next year we'll be able to DIG it at Tramway - DIG being the acronym for Dance International Glasgow. Full programme details have yet to be announced, but one date, the opening show on Friday April 24th is already settled. Scottish Ballet will perform Hans van Manen's 5 Tangos, but the real show-stopper is likely to be the new commission by Marc Brew in which dancers from Scottish Ballet will take to the stage alongside members of Indepen-dance, the Glasgow-based inclusive dance development company founded by Karen Anderson in 1996.

If Brew's integrated choreography is a first for Scottish Ballet, it's probably also a first in terms of the UK's professional classical ballet companies although - as fans of Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) will know - our national contemporary dance group not only brought brought several integrated works into its repertoire, it appointed Caroline Bowditch as Dance Agent for Change (2008 - 2012). Marc Brew - like Bowditch, a wheelchair user - was one of the choreographers who worked with SDT as an associate director, in tandem with running his own company, teaching and performing internationally as well as across the UK.

For Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet's artistic director, being able to call on some-one like Brew was simply ideal. "I knew Marc's work, knew that if we wanted to explore the possibilities in an integrated project, then he was a dance-maker we could trust to set the really interesting challenges. And this was, from the very beginning, all about challenges. Karen (Anderson) came to me last year and said she felt that her own dancers needed the challenge of working with a professional choreographer who could push them in new directions. She wondered if we, as a company, would be interested in taking part. It so happened that most of the dancers were on tour in America, and I'd been looking for a project that wasn't just a re-tread of old work for the ones who were still in Tramway. Karen's suggestion couldn't have come at a better time."

At that stage, there was no pressure on anyone to do more than explore movement ideas and, as Hampson has it, "come together and see what happens. It was about sharing in a totally new experience. We had dancers from all ranks - juniors through to soloists and principals - going into a studio with dancers, some of whom had learning difficulties, and immediately there was the start of an exchange that wasn't just about doing steps. Going in, chatting to all those who were taking part, was fascinating because what you heard were dancers voicing their fears, and their preconceptions. Not just my dancers, but Karen's. It was incredibly honest, but it was also the basis for what Marc was able to create. And this embracing of what you fear, of preconceptions about other people, about difference - and if you think about it, classical ballet is a very different way of moving! - then dissolving that away in dance..."

By the time the rest of the company had come back to Tramway, this interim project had developed powerful legs. Tim Nunn, Programme Manager at Tramway, had already approached Hampson about Scottish Ballet showing work at DIG: the opportunity to present Marc Brew's new integrated work became the dynamic for an opening night showcase of home-grown dance. "When we did Dance Odysseys at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2013," says Hampson "we were able to show audiences new, and maybe unexpected, sides to what we do. I'd always wanted something that would do the same for Glasgow - Marc's choreography is doing just that."