Fringe Theatre Reviews: The Best of Dance Base

Feature by Stephanie Green and Mark Harding | 10 Aug 2015

Dance Base is the place to be if you want to know what’s going on in the contemporary dance world. As ever, artistic director Morag Deyes’ extraordinarily varied programme continues to enthral, surprise and at times, shake you to the core.

The exquisite Ink of Innocence [★★★★☆] is a highlight of Dance Base’s offerings, shown as part of the Special Edition double bill. Choreographed by Eve Mutso, the interaction between a dancer in white with others in black is fluid, imaginative and tightly controlled. More impressively, this piece is expressive in a way not often achieved by classically trained companies. But why the ropes? Their potential is unexplored. 1 to 10  [★★★★☆], literally playing on numbers, choreographed by Jamiel Laurence was witty and sharp, a perfect foil.

Exciting new companies E Motion and Tamsyn Russell burst onto the scene with explosive energy earlier in the year.  E Motion, as the company name suggests, presents Between Us [★★★★☆], a piece full of emotion and choreographed by Emma Snellgrove. Charting female relationships and break-ups, it is intense but with a surprising, delightful sense of humour, if at times rambling.  Atzi Muramatsu’s live cello accompaniment is a superb call and response to the choreography. The athletic Hunting Dust [★★★☆☆] is equally full of joy and humour, exploring gender issues and competitiveness but did not seem to know how to end.

Sleazy come-on glances of dancers greet the audience. Gaze of the Kavaluan [★★★★☆] by the Taiwanese Tjimur Dance Theatre should be x-rated. Superbly danced, it is a raw protest against the restrictive mores of traditional society. Sex, not love, is seen as the antidote. The brooding symbol of virginity entrapped in voluminous black veil is disturbing, especially when she almost chokes on her scream. The dancers are feral, especially when smelling each other’s sexuality – a particularly affective moment is when the Virgin’s lilies hang from their lips.

Nijinsky’s Last Jump [★★★★☆] by Company Chordelia is devastating, a play/dance exploring Nijinsky’s schizophrenia and the years of cruel treatment he endured in asylums. Both dancer Darren Brownlie and actor James Bryce playing Njinsky’s younger and older selves are moving. There are some wonderful lines (‘You just go up and pause a little up there’) but The Skinny was a bit disappointed that dance does not feature more prominently – however, there is a wonderful depiction and development of poses from the photographs of Nijinsky as a faun and evocative use of excerpts of the music he danced to, from Debussy to Stravinsky.

Al Seed in Oog [★★★★☆] is a commanding solo presence. Backed by terrific lighting and soundtrack, he plays a soldier who has crossed the edge of mental breakdown. Transforming from damaged human, eyes grow from pinpricks to saucers, mouth twists from joker to black tunnel, a war machine with no trace of humanity left – or is there? Exemplary physical theatre, and Alex Rigg’s overcoat is a character in its own right.

Fishamble’s Underneath [★★★★★] is billed as a one-man ‘play’ but this does not evoke the sheer brilliance of this tour de force: Pat Kinevane is both ghoul and charming Irish raconteur in the pub, telling a sad tale of a young girl’s endurance of bullying for her ‘disability’ (scarred by lightning) with amazing changes of mood, from emotionally shocking scenes to flashes of humour, an array of characters (including a house-hunting couple and Galapagos, the slowest man ever), and themes ranging from Lourdes to Downton Abbey. No dance, some physical theatre: it is sure to be the talk of the festival.

And why not savour a meditative moment with Green Tea and Zen Baka first thing?

Nijinsky's Last Jump, Dance Base, 'til 23 Aug, 2pm, £10/£8

Between Us + Hunting Dust, Dance Base, 'til 16 Aug, 3:30, £10/£8

Special Edition 2015, Dance Base, 'til 23 Aug, 5pm, £10/8

Taiwan Season: Gaze of the Kavaluan, Dance Base, 'til 30 Aug, 6:30pm, £10/£8

Underneath, Dance Base, 'til 30 Aug, 7:30pm, £10/£8

Oog, Dance Base, 'til 23 Aug, 9:30pm, £10/£8