Scottish Dance Theatre, Dreamers & Process Day

Posted: February 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Scottish Dance Theatre, Dreamers & Process Day

Scottish Dance Theatre, Dreamers & Process Day, Dundee Rep, February 12

Scottish Dance Theatre in Process Day (photo: Brian Hartley)

Scottish Dance Theatre in Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Process Day (photo: Brian Hartley)

“Dreams have only one owner at a time. That’s why dreamers are lonely.” – Erma Bombeck

Anton Lachky’s Dreamers woke up last February in a Scottish Dance Theatre double bill with Jo Strømgren’s Winter, Again. Upon first viewing I struggled to see the fit as the pair were too similar — both showcasing lightness, comedy and a hyper-real quality. So I’ve come back to Dreamers to see how it has settled into the bodies of the dancers, into the company and how it sits with a new bedfellow, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Process Day.

 defines itself as “making sense from nonsense and exploring links between reality and surrealism” and over the course of 35 minutes it delivers its intention well. A police line-up forms the opening image where all nine performers face front and Aya Steigman erupts from the line, fizzes with skittish urgency and delivers a hiphop-laced solo that is startling in its ferocity. This is the opening minute and I wonder whether my eyes can contain or maintain the pace. The invisible energy passed between each of the solo performers is dialled down the further away from the original source we go until everyone has had a chance or two to show us their best moves.

Nothing lingers for too long and at the same time we’re not asked as an audience to invest much either; we see two or three playful examples of what the world might look like if the choreographic power is given over to Audrey Rogero and Francesco Ferrari. The strongest visual memory from my first Dreamers was the face-melting elasticity of Rogero and 12 months on, the malleability, facial contortions and impossibly extended neck stand out again as she out-Doyles Mrs Doyle. Slapstick, physical buffoonery and bodily control are re-employed again and again with Rogero manipulating the remainder of the company at her whim; spinning, flicking, and boot-camping them. As she discovers her power and ability to transform she gifts us one of the most infectious cackles heard on stage.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

When Ferrari emerges from the pack to take control, he’s barking orders ferociously in an unknown language and basking in the power of controlling the others — apart from when Amy Hollinshead marches out of the line like a rebellious tin soldier, frustrating Ferrari even more.

The lightness and humour shines alongside the musical choices of Bach, Verdi, Chopin and Haydn. Dreamers is a white, crisp, and frothy demonstration of personality, wild abandon and fine dancing.

“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.” – Jean Genet

As night follows day, dark will follow light and Process Day now follows Dreamers.
Are we in Dundee or have we been transported to a Weimar Republic cabaret, a dark world filled with luscious, crepuscular creatures, a place where gender is dissolved and eyes linger on the smallest of details? Eyal and Behar, alongside Ori Lichtik (musician), Rebecca Hytting (assistant and co-costume designer) and Alon Cohen (lighting) create an unsettling environment that either repulses or embraces the eyes that rest on the stage.

Clad in black from foot to ribs and a neutral scrim from the chest upwards, the dancers exist in a quarter light giving the impression of a floating set of torsos and amplified arms which frame and isolate each other like a vogue ball. From the nine performers, Josh Wild (apprentice dancer from London Contemporary Dance School) is a choreographic leech, creeping onto other performers, intruding and creating a series of unwanted duets before blending back into the dark. The dancers seem almost extra human and there’s a striking motif of Matthew Robinson’s controlled head-butting of Jori Kerreman’s stomach – it fits perfectly in this world and is one of the many lingering frescoes which sit amongst the larger-scale ensemble moments.

“So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T. S. Eliot

Cohen’s lighting design aligns well with the choreographic intention; despite the lights being so dim I am noticing the slightest of movements: twitches, ankle rotations and shoulder snaps were pulling my eyes all over the stage as a thin film of haze weighs heavily on the stage.

Classical strings, abrasive bass and relentless synths offer a sonic realm that promotes difficulty. Choreographic difficulty is also on show as not all the dancers are comfortable with this hard, sinewy performance style. Eyal and Behar are a brave choice from Artistic Director Fleur Darkin as they’re asking the dancers a completely different set of choreographic questions from those of Damien Jalet’s Yama, Darkin’s own Miann or Strømgren’s Winter, Again.

“Androgyny is not trying to manage the relationship between the opposites; it is simply flowing between them.” – June Singer

I am sucked into the world of Process Day by the scenographic control that Eyal, Behar and their collaborators have over me. It is satisfying to spend 40 minutes with them in their world of heavy and dark; but if the company does with Process Day what they did with Yama — extending it from an original half bill to a full-length work — now that would be a 30th birthday present worth unwrapping.

(Dreamers and Process Day are on Scottish Dance Theatre’s double bill tonight and tomorrow at Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh)

Scottish Dance Theatre: Second Coming & Winter, Again

Posted: March 25th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Scottish Dance Theatre: Second Coming & Winter, Again

Scottish Dance Theatre, Double Bill, The Place, March 8.

Lewis Wilkins and Eve Ganneau in Second Coming. Photo Maria Falconer

Lewis Wilkins and Eve Ganneau in Second Coming. Photo Maria Falconer

Joan Clevillé draws me so convincingly into his subterfuge that I can forgive Victor Quijada for the beginning of his Second Coming; I had checked the running time of the show and had booked a train that would give me just enough time between the end of the performance and the departure from Victoria station. When Clevillé, who is rehearsal director of the company as well as a dancer, announces that there will be a delay to the start of the show — he has an excellent command of English but his searching for a word and his roving accentuation underlines the hesitation and insecurity of his explanations — I feel my comfort zone shrink rapidly. Luckily I am sitting next to Chantal Guevara who surreptitiously checks online and reassured me that this is in fact the beginning of the show (but don’t tell anyone). It’s a forewarning that we will be kept in a constant state of unpreparedness throughout the evening as there is no clear demarcation between true and false, belief and non-belief. Even the score by Jasper Gahunia erases boundaries, seamlessly interpolating turntable riffs into classical music and vice versa. Quijada and Gahunia are clearly on the same wavelength.

Twenty minutes into the show, Clevillé admits to the dramatic subterfuge, and starts another, but we are now attuned: the choreographer has been fired. It is a harmless, self-deprecating put-down of choreographers as macho control freaks with anger management issues, but, as Clevillé states modestly, there is still some amazing dancing to come and he saves the best for last: his own solo. What follows is much more, for although it starts (after a false start) with his slow, deliberate, finger-tracing solo to a phrase of a Bach prelude, it develops with Mozartian richness into a confrontational duet with Jori Kerremans on a spirited phrase of Paganini, and then into a trio with Nicole Guarino on a phrase from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No 13 (Emma Jones’ must have been dancing along to get the cues so perfectly). It is as if Quijada has arranged an epic breaking battle for these three composers who then join forces to play variations on their respective themes and by the end we are all laughing and cheering so loudly because Quijada, Gahunia, the three dancers and Jones have it all down so perfectly.

Matthew Robinson cuts through the applause (he has to wait a while) to deliver his critique of this ‘performance-non-performance thing’ as ‘overworked pseudo-intellectual rubbish’, but he has to continue his defiant monologue in defense of dancers while being dragged slowly by his collar around the stage.

Quijada has reached the summit but there is no lessening of quality as the ensemble descends the mountainside climbing through and under each other in a grouping that leaves behind the opening images of birds and street gangs, flocks and individuals, suspicion and tension as it slips freely to the point of dispersal. Only Eve Ganneau and Lewis Wilkins are left to deliver a duet that is as magical as it is off balance, as heartfelt as it is artfully constructed and which ends on a mysterious note of inversion.

It is rare to find a company with such a diverse range of qualities and a delight to see choreography that brings out those qualities to perfection. We are doubly fortunate this evening for it happens twice.

SDT in Jo Stromgren's Winter, Again.

Lewis Wilkins, Giulia Montalbano, Julian Juárez, Jori Kerremans, Joan Clevillé, Nicole Guarino and Eve Ganneau in Jo Stromgren’s Winter, Again.

Jo Strømgren is as much a theatre director as a choreographer; in his Winter, Again he brings together both drama and dance in a fluent form that integrates visual imagery and choreography so well that the dancers could well be speaking. Strømgren’s text is the cold and bitter emotion of a selection of songs from Schubert’s Winterreise (played by fellow Norwegian Leif Ove Andsnes and sung by Ian Bostridge) though he can never take quite seriously the high romanticism of Wilhelm Müller’s verse. Instead he mischievously juxtaposes Schubert’s music with the bloodthirsty, churlish actions of an isolated hunting community dressed in shades of ghostly white (by Bregje van Balen) that lives its daily fight for survival with as little emotion as the winter itself. Echoes of Ibsen and Chekhov abound in the chilling screams, pistol shots, dead birds and other furry carcasses but Strømgren has us laughing helplessly from the beginning with his brand of dark, irreverent humour. Not even the fate of a young girl (Natalie Trewinnard) who spends the entire performance searching for her eyeballs that the pigtailed beauty Maria Hayday finds in a tin and mindlessly drops in the snow can prompt a sense of sympathy. Trewinnard finally finds her eyes and pops them back in, but her focal adjustment is so masterfully funny — and Strømgren’s dramatic sense so seasoned — that her subsequent suicide by pistol shot that brings the performance to an end is less of an emotional charge than a dramatic full stop.

This program is the parting gift of former artistic director Janet Smith. Fleur Darkin is in the seat now. In the evening’s program she writes that ‘contemporary dance is a form that lives by destroying its past’ and yet both of this evening’s remarkable works make creative use of the past to find new forms rather than destroying it. Scottish Dance Theatre is, in its present form, a gifted company and while it has such a rich repertoire may the only kind of destruction under discussion be creative destruction. And long may it last.