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Vile the Traverse Autumn Festival part 1.

Gareth K Vile looks at some of the productions that happened in this year's festival.

Writing reviews can be such a tedious process, especially when I end up with a backlog of shows to cover, none of which anyone is going to get to see, because they were only on for one or two nights, or I have left it so long that the company has already gone into liquidation. The endless listing of performers (“she had an excellent quality of movement”), contexts (“harking back to the post-rave experimentalists of the early 1990s”) and techniques (“there is a clear influence from Cunningham and Morris, with a hint of Indian orientalism) makes a review something like a recipe from a television chef: packed with curious detail and exotic ingredients, but lacking in nourishment and never likely to make it onto the table.

Thank you to Fleur Darkin for Disgo at the Traverse, then. By so thoroughly mixing up the audience and performers – everyone was on the stage, grooving away to the electronic score – it becomes impossible to litter the review with asinine statements about individual dancers or the choreography. It is like being at a night-club: only a few people messing about with ropes or bursting into sudden, random dance-offs reveal that Disgo is anything more than an early evening knees up. Even when we are corralled into lines to parade around the stage, the sense of community overcame any division between artist and passive observer.

It is fortunate, as well, that Tony Mills of Breakin’ Convention, Marc Brew from Scottish Ballet and Christine “Curious Seed” Devaney are in the crowd. I am now claiming that I have performed a duet with each of these performers on the stage in Traverse One. Finally, I am an artist and not just a critic.

Disgo takes that old favourite – “breaking the fourth wall” – and reduces it to rubble. Caged in by strips of neon light, Darkin’s company are invisible in the crowd. It is only when they throw down or start shouting “touch me” (and yes, I did get asked to leave after taking that request too far) that they emerge from the darkness. At times, they herd the audience: other times, they merely interrupt their pondering or grooving. The ritual energy of performance is somehow linked to the spontaneous play of the dance-floor. Rather like Mattin’s mad-professor experiments with the conventions of “the music gig”, Disgo takes a pop at the dull gap between the artist and the audience, filling the stage with what ought to be mayhem, but hints at a future that ignores the distinction between art and community.

While she uses different tactics, Iona Kewney tends to leave a similar sensation. Along with Joe Quimby, Kewney was rocking Traverse 2 as part of Dance Base’s Now What Now? Platform. Kewney has few peers, and fewer apparent influences: she is as often called “Live Art” as dance, and her work with Quimby marries agitated physicality with roaring guitar. Unlike Disgo, Kewney keeps the audience well away, but the ferocity of her movement is utterly engrossing, even frightening. There is a genuine sense of danger – not just emotionally, as when she starts playing with ladders, she might really hurt herself. Yet there is resolution and joy in the tumult, an absolute expressiveness of a body reaching beyond itself to articulate emotions beyond simple words.

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