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Jo Across the Festival - August 31, 2011

Jo Turbitt reviews Princess Bari, Booking Dance Festival, Scottish Ballet and Scottish Dance Theatre: Matters of the Heart.

Princess Bari (**) EIF

Princess Bari is a post-modern contemporary dance theatre that started off well but then slipped off into a weird abyss of Mark Morris-esq mix of Korean theatre and contemporary dance with a big dose of Pina Bausch thrown in. This recipe didn’t really work. The dancers/actors and musicians inhabited the space but there was no connection to each other or the audience. There are hooks of a storyline, but not really enough to let it hang there to be admired, absorbed and understood. There were several bizarre choreographic choices, and though there were some good moments, there are other times when big dance sections are lost onstage because they lack quality, precision and artistry. It was full of promise, but that lasted for the first 15 minutes and then unravelled like threads of silk to reveal a thin storyline embellished with too much ‘faff’.

Booking Dance Festival 14:00 & 16:00 (**)

This dance festival within the festival punches above its weight. Boasting that they showcase some of the best talent from New York City’s dance scene, I think they should rethink their tagline. Apart from one company, it was all contemporary dance or contemporary fusion. They produced two shows: one with 8 acts, the other with 3 acts doing an extended programme. The highlight of both shows was Rhythmic Circus, a funk-tap troupe complete with a brilliant live funk band. This act needs their own show – they totally rocked. The tap was phenomenal: fantastic syncopated silky rhythms boosted by the energetic lively vibes from the band. The rest of the companies didn’t really manifest towards anything and meandered along without much impact or impression. The dance festival is planning on returning next year with a two week programme: more variation, more oomph and more artistry please.

Scottish Ballet (*****) EIF

The double bill offering from Scottish Ballet as part of the International Festival is gorgeous; the most sumptuous, stunning and luscious dancing that I’ve seen from the company in a long, long time. The first piece “Kings 2 Ends” demonstrated the capacity, technique and masterful strength of the company’s male dancers (you can see why they’ve chosen to perform a Matthew Bourne piece in the coming year). Set against a picturesque palette of colourful tones, Jorma Elo has created a piece full of airborne quirky precision. His manipulation of motifs was delicious, showing us the ingredients of the phrase before the full phrase emerged. It was silky, luxurious, juicy and electric. Their second piece “Song of the Earth” displayed the company’s sensitivity to history. A different style of modern ballet, geometric and fluid, almost Cunningham-esq at times. Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography was performed with gorgeous technicality and strength by the corpes and the enchanting soloists.

Scottish Ballet danced as a strong company, demonstrating their worth as one of the stronger ballet companies in the UK. Their programme demonstrates the development and progression of modern/ contemporary ballet, though in reverse; in the first piece we see what the genre can be when in the hands of a magician like Elo. In the second, an early piece of modern ballet with flavours of post-modern grace. Gorgeous.

Scottish Dance Theatre: Matters of the Heart (*****)

SDT present a luscious platter of contemporary dance: three pieces shape the show like a well-planned, satisfying three course meal. The first piece, “A Little Shadery”, choreographed by Sally Owen, definitely gives new meaning and artistry to the contemporary dance idiom of being a tree. Her piece was fantastically intricate yet deftly simple, which added to the charm and beauty of the work performed with majestic humorous finesse. Their second piece, “Dreamt for light years”, choreographed by Joan Cleville, left me with a lump in my throat; the tangled relationship of harmony, personal solitude and frustrated understandings were physicalised with power, grace and an unsettlingly real dynamic. It isn’t often that a duet based on a relationship lets you into their world; I felt involved in the relationship with every step, shift and emotion.

The third and final piece, “Lay me down safe” by Kate Weare, is a company piece which moves you through the spectrum of physicality, relationships and qualities with choreography which fizzes and pours across the space. The brute strength and finesse of the company reminded me of the power and passion found in rugby players blended masterfully with the elegance, grace and beauty of dancers. SDT have a company spirit which resonates on stage in their performance, making them one of the most intriguing and feisty companies in the dance world today.

All productions have completed their festival runs.

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