It's been called the city of a thousand trades and the workshop of the world.
But David Massingham has another, less industrial, dream for Birmingham.
He says: “I want Birmingham to be known as THE dance city.
“We are a cultural asset that can bring something else to the city.”
He’s talking about International Dance Festival Birmingham, the biennial celebration now in its fourth year.
One of Europe’s largest dance festivals returns to the city from April 24 for four weeks of world premieres, community events, outdoor spectacles and unique collaborations.
David is the artistic director of DanceXchange at Birmingham Hippodrome and the co-artistic director of IDFB 2014.
He and Stuart Griffiths, the Hippodrome’s chief executive, were behind the first festival in 2008.
As Stuart says: “We are well-established now and going from strength to strength. This is one of the world’s great dance festivals and the biggest of its type in the UK.
“Birmingham is the UK’s most significant centre of dance, with the DanceXchange, Birmingham Hippodrome and Birmingham Royal Ballet working in partnership under one roof. We are greater than the sum of our parts.
“We want dance to be part of Birmingham’s DNA and I’m delighted that IDFB has been recognised as a lead festival with a national profile.
“We want to bring dance to as many people as possible, we’re taking it to the streets as well as theatres.
“Two years ago 60,000 people saw our shows and we’d like more this time.”
Thanks to interest in programmes like Strictly Come Dancing, and judging by all the dance crews who enter Britain’s Got Talent, dance is on the up.
Around 4.8 million people take part in community dance activities each week, and the number is growing.
David points out: “Dance has the youngest and fastest growing audience of all the arts sectors.
“It’s more visible these days, it’s very immediate and language is no barrier. That’s very handy in a multi-cultural city.
“We are offering a positive cornucopia of dance from around the world.
“Birmingham will be a thrilling place to live in and visit for a month. It’s a dance festival that’s really out there and it shows we can do things differently from other cities.
“We set out at the beginning to make sure IDFB would happen three times, but we’ve gone beyond that now.
“After three times, we said let’s keep going, so we have another three-festival plan in place.
“It is great that, in these times of cutbacks, the Arts Council and Birmingham City Council have once again come through with funding. BCC has given us £310,000 over two years.
“It loves the festival for what it achieves for the city. Birmingham is a young, vibrant city and we have a young, vibrant festival.
“We want to draw attention to fact that dance can animate a city.
“It’s not just about sticking dancers on stages, we are going out there bringing attention to other venues.”
The slogan for IDFB is ‘a world of dance in one city’, and this year there are more venues taking part than ever before – 17 in all.
Joining for the first time are Symphony Hall and Millennium Point.
Other venues joining in include the Hippodrome, Crescent and Rep theatres, plus Victoria Square, Bullring, Cannon Hill Park and the streets of Birmingham. Further afield, there is also Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry.
“The international ethos is hugely central to the programme, bringing people from all over the globe,” explains David.
And that means dancers from as far away as New Zealand, Brazil, Egypt, Korea and Canada will be flocking to Birmingham for the festival.
Those travelling the furthest – more than 11,000 miles – are Corey Baker Dance, who will be teaching Brummies how to perform the traditional Maori war dance of the Haka.
The event in Centenary Square on May 10 is part of Haka Day Out. IDFB’s international resident choreographer and New Zealander Corey Baker will lead free Haka workshops, followed by a live performance at 3.30pm.
David says: “Birmingham and New Zealand are a world apart geographically, but it’s exciting we can bring a part of a unique art form to Birmingham.”
Corey explains: “This is an initiative to promote the Maori culture, people and art form to Birmingham audiences.
“The All Blacks rugby team use the Haka to remind them of who they are while they are travelling the world.
“They use a Ka Mate Haka, from a long, detailed story about overcoming fear.
“It’s a war dance and intimidates the opposition as well as enriching them and uniting them as a team.”
Corey and two of his dancers demonstrated the Haka at the IDFB launch, which followed a rather stern warning to the audience: “Don’t talk, laugh or clap, and if they come towards you, move out the way as they have weapons.”
The main weapon is a stick called a Taiaha, which Corey says can kill a man in three strikes.
The terrifying, wide-eyed look on the face of male dancer Tupoutama Paki, coupled with the aggressive chanting and foot stomping, means nobody is going to put that to the test.
He and female dancer Raiha Johns also use Poi, tethered weighted balls. Originally used in training to strengthen the wrist, they are now gracefully swung as part of the dance.
The International Capoeira Festival will take place from May 23-25 at mac, bringing Brazilian beats to Brum.
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form, performed to live percussion, where dance meets martial arts.
There’s a free Sunday carnival parade, plus classes in capoeira, samba, percussion and acrobatics.
Also taking place outside mac on that Sunday, in the playground at Cannon Hill Park, is major IDFB success Spill.
It was first created by DanceXchange and Shaun Parker Company for the 2012 IDFB and has since travelled to Sydney and is soon
to be staged in New York.
It’s returning for this year’s festival with its blend of quirky dance and gymnastics. Each performance is unique as the show moves around, over and under swings, slides and roundabouts.
Victoria Square will be filled with street dance during the new production B-Town, including World B-Boy Champions Morning of Owl from Korea, while the Paint the Town Red initiative encourages everyone to get involved in dance.
Spaces across Birmingham will come alive with social dance events in styles including swing, lindy hop, tango, jazz fusion and house.
Birmingham Rep is hosting the ground-breaking Montreal circus company Les 7 Doigts de la Main’s new show Sequence 8. Anyone who fancies having a go can join in the circus skills sessions.
There’s also a project called All of Birmingham Is A Stage, an exhibition by students of Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture at Millennium Point, with their ideas about how to stage dance in unexpected places in the city.
They have also devised a prototype for a mobile piece of public art.
One of the major world premieres is Concert Danse, a collaboration between Birmingham’s Ex Cathedra choir and orchestra, dance company Cas Public from Quebec and UK performers. More than 50 performers will transform Symphony Hall with a mix of ballet, contemporary dance and Kathak (a type of Indian classical dance) as they stage Durufle’s Requiem.
Lord of the Flies puts together dancers from Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures with young talent from the Midlands. Based on William Golding’s novel, the schoolboys find themselves abandoned in a deserted theatre rather than an island.
Add to this performances by Birmingham Royal Ballet, the MY (Midlands Youth) Dance Festival and the hip hop project Breakin’ Convention at Birmingham Hippodrome, and there’s something for all ages and tastes.
* For more information, go to www.idfb.co.uk