Billingham Town Centre came to a total stand still when the sculpture entitled “World United by Dance” was presented to the people of Billingham. The piece cast in bronze is a permanent fixture situated under The Ramp area of the shopping centre.

The artwork represents Billingham’s long association with global dance as the Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance has been a fixture in the town for 52-years. The site creates multiple viewpoints for passers-by and users of the spiral stairway that covers and surrounds the artwork. The spiral shapes are reflected in the sculpture with figures of dancers entwined in the spectacular upward movement. 

The sculpture, which is approximately two-metre tall is the handy work of highly respected Mexican sculptress, Carmen Avalos. She flew over to Billingham for the ceremony that was also celebrated with a 10-minute commissioned dance routine, “Dance Spiral” choreographed by company-in-residence, Balbir Singh Dance Company. This was accompanied by a display of traditional Mexican dance by Ballet Folklorico del Estado de Hidalgo and Balletlagrana Autlán Jalisco.

‘World United by Dance’ has been funded by Arts Council England and Stockton Council with additional support by private sponsors including St Modwen, Billingham Town Council, Billingham Community News, WM Fortune & Son and Croft Coach Travel.    

“The sculpture is really good and beautifully depicts over fifty years of world dance coming to Billingham,” said Cllr Bob Cook.

He added: “Being a boy growing up in Billingham the Folklore Festival was a big part of my childhood, as I remember the whole community coming together to welcome and enjoy the wonderful dancers, costumes and music. The town is lucky to have a festival that enables us to attract performers from all over the world for an annual exchange of different cultural customs.”

Carmen Avalos is an internationally renowned artist with current exhibitions in Mexico, Switzerland, New York…and now Billingham. During a glittering career she has produced over two-hundred pieces of sculpture. Her work has a distinctive, contemporary style that is ever present in the commissioned pieces that can be found in towns and cities across the world.

Carmen Avalos, also a decorated performer in her own right – recognised for her singing and dancing. She said after the ceremony: “When I’m sitting in front of the clay dreaming up my ideas, music can be heard playing throughout my studio, and it inspires me to create the work. I want the people of Billingham to recognise that everyone can be at one with dance. Its universal values, philosophies and spirit can be found in all of our hearts.”

‘World United by Dance’ took Carmen over six-months to produce, and the bronze casting was created by Powerhall Bronze Ltd in Edinburgh.

This year’s Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance welcomed performers and dance companies from as far afield as Chile, Martinique, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. BIFF 2016 delivered eighteen dance showcase events inside the Festival Arena, Billingham Forum Theatre and Swimming Pool, Middlesbrough Theatre and Seven Entertainment Bingo Hall. On top of the shows there has been daily dance workshops for young people interested in dance performance instructed by the visiting International companies.

Olga Maloney, artistic director of the Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance, said: “The thinking behind the sculpture was to have a permanent feature in the Town Centre that reminds the residents of the Folklore Festival all the year round. The dancers sweep into the town for one week each year and bring their energy, culture and passion for dance which is shared by everyone involved. We wanted to commission a piece of work that reflects that passion and people can enjoy when they go about their daily life.”

The Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance finishes on Saturday August 20th with a Farewell Gala Concert in the Festival Arena at 2.30pm (all seats £8 / children under 12 years old / £2) and a Mini Gala Concert in the Festival Arena at 7.30pm followed by the Closing Ceremony (7.30pm / £5 and children under 12-years old / £1). Tickets can be bought on the door before the performance.

If you want to learn more about the other shows taking place at BIFF 2016 please visit www.billinghamfestival.co.uk or on social media via Facebook facebook.com/billinghamworlddancefestival and on Twitter @BillFest.