Vuyani Week Triple Dose The Dance Dactory, Newtown, Johannesburg 13 - 16 Oct 2011. 'Umnikelo' choreographed by Luyanda Sidiya. Photograph: John Hogg.

Eight years ago, dance enthusiasts would have seen a huge gap on their dance calendar.

Having started out as a mere dance project after the demise of its predecessor, Dance Indaba, the annual Baxter Dance Festival has not only filled the gap but is regarded as the Mother City’s premier dance event.

“It’s a monster child,” says Nicolette Moses, the associate producer and planning manager of the festival, describing the fest’s growth since its infancy.

Showcasing more than 300 dancers and about 50 choreo-graphers’ work, this year sees the entries range in style from neo-classical to contemporary, flamenco to fusion, physical theatre, modern dance, African, jazz, hip hop, belly dancing and even Indian dance.

“I was very much about Cape Town and keeping it for Capetonians’ skin,” shares Moses.

“We had so many applications from outside Cape Town and this year we had a record [number] of applications. I now have 52 works that will be presented in 10 days.”

From places as far-flung as Gauteng and Namaqualand, dance companies will gather to present a variety of works. As the festival is known for assigning a top choreographer to present a newly commissioned work, dance lovers will be treated to the unique flavour of Ananda Fuchs’s style. She will be presenting Fragile Falling daily on the Main Programme from Sunday. The piece explores the meaning of hair and in particular how strands hold our personal, cultural, social, emotional, psychological and inherited histories.

Says Moses: “Ananda is an amazing choreographer and has been creating consistently for a long time under someone’s umbrella and this is just a way to encourage her to focus on her own work. When she does create, it’s phenomenal.”

The other guest choreographers are Gregory Maqoma and Luyanda Sidiya with the Vuyani Dance Company, who will make their Cape Town debuts with their acclaimed shows Mayhem and The Offering, respectively. These were performed at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July.

There will also be a return performance by former Alvin Ailey dancer Bradley Shelver, who will perform for the first time in Cape Town since leaving the country.

Dance companies participating include the Underground Dance Theatre, Amalgamated Artists, Wilvan School of Dance, Jazzart Dance Theatre, La Rosa Spanish Dance Company, Cape Dance Company and Brigitte Reeve Dance Company, to name a few.

The festival is divided into three stages, namely Main, Off Main and the Fringe.

The Main stage showcases contemporary works by established professional companies. The Off Main showcases young emerging choreographers and students’ work. The Fringe includes work by youth groups, dance studios, school groups, traditional African dance groups and choreographers.

“Last year I looked at applications and decided there needed to be a bridge, so I created the Off Main Stage for those pieces that are not quite ready for Main and not for Fringe,” says Moses.

“I’m creating some kind of growth path and by having a mixed bill, you encourage people to see each other’s work.

“We’re saying: ‘Here’s the platform, come and present your work’. It’s about the survival of the art form – that there should always be a space in an environment that’s not going to compromise the work.”

• The Main programme runs every night at 8pm from Thursday to October 13. The Off Main programme takes place on Saturday at 5pm. The Fringe programme takes place at 2pm on Saturday, October 13. Book at Computicket.