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Festival Review: Dance Base 2017

Jo Turbitt reviews a collection of pieces performing at Dance Base at this year's Festival Fringe.

Taiwan Season: 038 (Kuo-Shin Chuang Pangcah Dance Theatre) 4 stars

038’ is a hauntingly energetic piece with unfaltering physical precision. Kuo-Shin Chuang’s work is a tapestry of repetitive layers that grow and morph to clarify the concept and message of the work.

The piece meanders a little, becoming slightly introverted towards the end. However, this suits the piece because the hypnotic dynamics and qualities of the work carry you off without realising it, therefore a slump, a breath, a moment takes it’s natural course in the structure of the piece. The group design, lighting, costume and rhythmic design of 038 blend together with the choreography to create a mesmerising piece. Chuang’s movement vocabulary is littered with juxtaposition, creating tension yet harmony; it’s tender, explosive and passionate with a mechanical edge, and it is in the robotic qualities blended with a relentless energy that the message of the work carries strongly.

Fall Out (Old Kent Road) 5 stars

Woah! What a company! These hoofers have chops to kill for. In ‘Fall Out’, Old Kent Road have brought the physical relationship of tap, music and the soul (sole) to the stage—it’s poetry of the body in motion through glorious syncopation.

The company of dancers are cheeky, quirky and explosive; the choreography is stylish, sophisticated and responds through crafted textures, playing with melodic overtones from the live band that accompany them on stage. The range of sounds and music used offer a colourful range of emotional responses, which the movement, energy and group respond to with artistic sensitivity.

It’s great to see tap dancers dancing; influences of jazz and contemporary are evident in the vocabulary which is especially well-conceived in the brother/sister section, though it could be woven more seamlessly into others. However, it is clear that this mixture is part of the influence, voice and identity of the group. What this company do so well is symphonic rhythm: they layer, fracture, weave and groove with each other, with the band and with their audience.

Often hoofers don’t let you in to enjoy what they are saying with their feet. Old Kent Road do, and it’s immense.

Leviathan (James Wilton Dance) 5 stars

Dance that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Athletic bodies taking fearless risks with limitless adventurous choreography, defying gravity and any other restrictive theory.

James Wilton’s work, examining our innate human fear of what may dominate or challenge one’s obsession and our relentless fixation to tame and capture the unknown, is extraordinary. His ape-like Neanderthals contrast with ethereal simplistic fluid articulation, showcasing both sides of the release-based contemporary style. Wilton’s narrative is conveyed through deliciously crafted visual physical concepts and is deceivingly simple yet intricately crafted. I was engrossed, captured and caught up in the piece from the start.

The Humours of Bandon (Fishamble) 4 stars

This is the “Dance Moms” of 1990-2000. Insightful, honest anecdotes are woven into this one-woman comedy, shining a light on the truths behind teenagers in dance training, examining situations where parent, dancer and teacher all collide in their views and rationales of situations.

Fishamble’s work dragged up loads of buried memories from my training; even though I didn’t do Irish dancing—nor did I compete—the characters, the traits, the stereotypes, the situations, the turmoil and the thoughts that McAuliffe goes through is on point with what goes through the head of every teenager training to be a dancer, including that moment when the rollercoaster that you’re on unleashes your fighting spirit. Well structured, well paced, well written and well danced.

Lady Macbeth: Unsex me here (Company Chordelia & Solar Bear) 4 stars

Company Chordeilia’s work investigates the masculine attributes of Lady Macbeth. Kally Llyod-Jones has captured the masculine fragility of the character using three male performers, each bringing a tender strength to their interpretation and performance of the work.

The piece is a collaboration with Solar Bear, and the programme notes discuss the use of BSL and the integration of it into the choreography, yet I felt it didn’t have the opportunity to make a considerable impact within the textures and vocabulary that was used.

Llyod-Jones uses the Shakespearean theme of three to cut through and delve into the gritty multiple layers of the tormented, power-driven character; the three performers layer their movement throughout the space, deftly ricocheting in their connection, creating beautiful moments where melodramatic movement echo in developmental repetition.

The work has a delicate depth laced with Elizabethan theatrical semiotics and traditions, Brechtian at points with existential flavours—which supported but also interfered with my relationship to the work. I found myself questioning regularly in the second half whether the performers were Lady Macbeth or were they performers being performers being Lady Macbeth, and through theatrical devices had they taken on the characteristics, attributes and arch of her, and were they then left with the impression of her but bereft of the actual person? A bit out there I know…

All pieces perform at Dance Base in Edinburgh. Check programme or website for dates and times as they vary.

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