Can you DIG it?

Yes you can, if you dip into the Dance International Glasgow (DIG) brochure and opt for one of the many events listed there. From this Friday, until Saturday June 6, you can choose from live performances by companies from across the UK and beyond, film screenings, forums and workshops, exhibitions and more. Tramway's various spaces make the building a hub for DIG activities, but venues across Glasgow - including the Arches and some community centres - are stepping up and, like the major funding bodies, joining in this new initiative.

Why DIG now? Tim Nunn, programme manager at Tramway, Glasgow, quickly picks up on the underlying question here: namely, why has it taken so long for Glasgow to join up the pre-existing dots - Scottish Ballet, Scottish Dance Theatre, Dance House Glasgow, several independent companies and artists are all on hand - into a showcase that can also stage work from elsewhere?

"When you look at the resources we do have, it does seem odd that it's only happening now," he says. "And I don't think I have an answer, other than maybe it was a matter of logistics. Perhaps - because we still had Nikki Milican's New Territories, with its international dance programme - there wasn't a gap in the city's performance landscape. Perhaps, and I was aware of this when I first moved to Glasgow in 2003, there didn't seem to be enough of a dance audience to justify something like DIG."

All that has since changed. New Territories sadly ended in 2011, yet as Nunn has found since he came into post at Tramway some two and a half years ago, the audience for dance has continued to gain ground in Glasgow. "If I look back at what we've programmed at Tramway," he says, "our greatest success, in terms of box office and audience response, has been with dance. At the same time, there's been a real blossoming of quality, home-grown talent - and to help encourage that, we've set up a new scheme: Tramway Associate Artists. Currently our artists are Marc Brew, Natasha Gilmore and Louise Ahl - all of them showing new work during DIG. Next year, we're bringing in Claire Cunningham and Jack Webb. Whatever happens after DIG 2015, we're looking to foster a creative community around dance. We're not out to make Tramway a drop-in social centre for dancers, and we're not going to be offering classes - there are other organisations doing that. But I do think there is a definite niche for Tramway, through presenting movement-based work and for that work to be drawn from the whole spectrum from experimental to mainstream. DIG is, I hope, just the start of that."

For Scottish Ballet, with their offices and studios based at Tramway, being part of DIG has already led to new directions on-stage. The opening night of the festival (Friday, April 24) will see the company join forces with Indepen-dance 4 in their first ever piece of integrated dance - indeed, Scottish Ballet will be the first UK classical company to commission an integrated work, then perform it. For choreographer and Tramway Associate Artist, Marc Brew, the piece, which he has called Exalt and set to tracks by Nils Frahm, celebrates the coming together of "very different bodies, very different aesthetics and techniques and very different experiences of making dance, in a kind of equilibrium. The journey we all went on - and it started off, last year, as a two week research project - has meant everybody breaking out of their comfort zones. The Scottish Ballet dancers hadn't worked with adults who have learning difficulties before. The guys in Indepen-dance 4 hadn't worked with ballet dancers who have turn-out and classical technique. A real part of what I had to do was to get everyone sharing their concerns about these unknown quantities - and then, letting go of those concerns, to join in the floor-work, the partnering, the contact improvisations that were all about dancing together. And that's what Exalt is all about. It's joyous,it's upbeat and it rocks the houses a bit - it's been a really exciting process."

Later in the DIG season, Brew will premiere For Now I Am, a solo that is an intensely personal reflection on the car crash that so impacted on his body, he now uses a wheelchair. "I remember waking up in hospital and discovering I couldn't even move my fingers, my hands, and all the time thinking 'I'm broken. My body's broken. I'm damaged goods.' And yet, all the time they were x-raying and scanning me, I had this awareness that 'I' was still in there. That my spirit was still whole." Brew wasn't yet 20 when, in 1997, that car crash ended his intended career as a classically trained dancer. It also put him on the path to a different career, as an internationally-acclaimed dance-maker who performs with his own company as well as choreographing and teaching others.

"I've never recognised myself as anything other than a dancer," he says. "It's who I am, but it's only now that I feel ready to consider - and to reveal - my body is in its present form. As a classical dancer, I was used to looking at my body in a certain way - and for it to do what I wanted. That changed after the car accident, but now that I really do feel comfortable, confident, at one with myself - it's time to look at myself again, and to re-connect with the body that I have." He talks, softly and intently, about how rituals and religions have all devised processes for "making what is broken whole." From those researches, he's arrived at having water as a symbolic image in his work. "It carries ideas of baptism, cleansing, purification," he says. "So images of water will be projected onto this swathe of white fabric that covers me on-stage, and..." Brew breaks off, smiles impishly. "I don't want to give too much away - I want you to come and see it! " If you can't make Tramway on either May 26 or 27, For Now I Am is at Zoo Southside during the Fringe (August 22-30).

Personal experience has also informed the new work, Whiteout, that Natasha Gilmore will premiere with her Barrowland Ballet company at DIG. "It's autobiographical - but it's not my story" is how Gilmore refers to a choreography that has skin colour and ethnicity as a starting point. "I grew up in a white family, with the general overview of life that goes along with that. And then I married a West African - and all of a sudden, I was experiencing things from a new and very different perspective. But it was probably only when I had my kids, and we were having to make choices and decisions that were ultimately about their future, that I really understood how 'white' my perceptions and my experiences were. Where to live? what school? Things that wouldn't have been a priority before, took on a different importance. And in a way, Whiteout has come out of that new awareness."

Gilmore is emphatic that this is not a piece about aggressive racism. Yes, people have made comments when she's been out with her husband "but in some situations, he's actually invisible." Gilmore laughs as she riffs on how in restaurants, or shops, she's the one people talk to. "Maybe they think he can't speak English? But actually - as a lot of women will tell you - being 'invisible' isn't necessarily about colour, it can be about gender. So once I'd started working on Whiteout, discussing ideas with my dancers and with our brilliant composer, Luke Sutherland, the concept took on other dimensions. That's why it's really not my story. It's not actually a linear narrative at all. It's more about using the movement to explore the complexities, and emotions, of relationships. And to ask why people can so often be judged on how they look, not on who they are. Luke Sutherland told us he was always being asked about his favourite reggae artists, because people looked at his dread-locks and made assumptions. He'd confuse them, saying he was actually into Punk. In Whiteout, my six dancers are all British - but there's a wonderful variety of ethnic origins in the line-up which I hope makes the piece look and feel like a celebration of diversity."

Full details of Dance International Glasgow are on