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Dance Review: Highland Fling ****

Jo Turbitt reviews a 'winning' production.

Matthew Bourne is known for taking a classical ballet story, playing with the plot, adding in a dollop of social commentary and mixing up the original score: Highland Fling is no exception. However, the extra added flavour in this production is that it’s the first time that Bourne has set his work on a company that is not his own.

Set in Glasgow, the production design toys with a Broons/Oor Wullie vibe of tartans and stereotypes, which suits the re-telling and location of the story.

The dancers of Scottish Ballet shine in his work, to the extent where it’s noticeable that both his direction and his choreography sit really well in their bodies—it’s the best I’ve seen them perform and work as an ensemble in a long time. Whatever he’s done in rehearsals has really made a difference. The movement qualities and vocabulary of the work engages a virtuosity in the company, encouraging the ineffable to present itself.

The character work of the principles contributes to this, however it’s the sylphs that own the show. Sophie Martin is captivating as the sylph who captures the heart of mortal James; her flighty, mischievous impish characteristics blend with her delicate yet fiery qualities, flying with fleeting speed through the space, owning the stage with a presence small yet fierce. Martin’s duets with Christopher Harrison are rich in content and connection. The army of sylphs in Act Two are awesome: it’s here (and in the duets) that it’s very apparent how well the company have absorbed Bourne’s work and how much they enjoy performing the work. It’s not something that is always clear in ballet, but in Highland Fling the company are having a ball!

As a production, Highland Fling is close on the heels of Bourne’s piece de resistance Swan Lake. And as a company, Scottish Ballet are on to a winning combination.

At Edinburgh Festival Theatre until April 14th before touring across Scotland until May 4th.

Tags: dance

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