Fringe Theatre Reviews: Dance Base

Woodland creatures, power dynamics, secret languages... in this round-up, we take a look at what's on offer at Dance Base in the first week of the Fringe

Feature by Stephanie Green and Mark Harding | 09 Aug 2016

As ever, Dance Base is the place to sample an eclectic mix of the best in contemporary dance and physical theatre, whether exquisite, thoughtful, funny or all three. Post-Brexit, there’s a heartening international range.

Poggle [★★★★☆] 

If you have small children (or even if you don’t), go to this delightful show from Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballet about meeting a woodland creature – full of magic and wonder. You can tell Natasha Gilmore, the choreographer, has small children as she knows what they love: peek-a-boo, someone disappearing head-first into a box and dancing upside down, and – of course – bubbles. Vince Virr, the explorer, is charming; Jade Adamson as the Poggle, with her bells and spiky head-dress, is enchanting. Best of all, the kids can enter the stage at the end to explore the secrets in the woodland themselves.
Ages 6m-4yrs, 5-21 Aug, 1.30pm, £6-9

Skal/ Silent Space [★★★☆☆]

Dance Ihayami present a fascinating combination of South Asian dance with western classical traditions. The music mixes western orchestral recordings, live singing, amplified flute, electronic drone and the dancers' foot-stomping percussion. The intricate choreography forms compositions reminiscent of classical sculpture, while solos and duets explore spiritual, quieter aspects. Refreshing and fun.

The hip­-hop duo in Skal counter­intuitively examine male friendship with a chilled, Sunday­ afternoon vibe. Domestic scenes alternate with dances where encouragement, emulation and admiration are emphasised, rather than hectic competition. But sadly, the domestic chills become longeurs.
5-14 Aug, 1pm, £10-12

The Rooster and Partial Memory [★★★★★]

A superb double bill from El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe. The Rooster is sexy, humorous, energetic, and totally masculine. Inspired by the forms of the 'dabke' folk dance, the piece explores the personal and group dynamics of power: how it can be abused, worshipped, won and lost. Emotionally profound, thought-provoking, disturbing and haunting. Partial Memory is a moving evocation of the universal experience of regret for a past that is lost forever; but with an intense and disturbing political twist. Highly recommended.
5-14 Aug, 2.30pm, £8-12

The Rooster and Partial Memory

NuShu [★★★☆☆]

Inspired by ‘NuShu’, the ‘secret language of women’, this is a fascinating meld of West and East, with finely danced modern choreography from Taiwanese company Water Reflection incorporating Chinese dance gestures, and waving scarves and fans on which they write their calligraphy.

Holding a lit bowl, Hui-Chen Tan chants the story of her childhood in a remote island, forbidden to men, learning the secret language. The moveable set of red tables symbolise the seven characters per sentence in the language. As she progresses to womanhood and marriage, she is shrouded in red cloths – red being the symbol of good luck and marriage – but they have a bitter-sweet meaning since she will never see her parents again. Particularly moving is the dancer trailing a white bandage, suggesting the practice of foot-binding.
5-28 Aug, 3pm, £8-10

Lost In Grey [★★★★☆] 

Although the theme of mental health disorders might sound off­putting, this show is full of excitement and surprising lyricism. With a distinctive rock track, the dancing is relentless and fast­paced. The OCD-like behaviours of the dancers create a manic atmosphere which is balanced by sections of grace amidst the mental pain, gestures of sympathy, and attempts to make human connection. Perhaps not a revelatory show, but full of verve, and interspersed with moments of beauty.
5-28 Aug, 5.15pm, £8-12

I Am Rhythm [★★★★☆]

After Freedom Productions take us through a history of South African dance to remind us how pervasive the influence of African dance has been in the past, and how today it intermingles with Western (American) music. The tour takes us through tribal Tswana, Zulu Warrior, Gumboot, Kofifi, Pantsula, Sbujwa and Kwasa­Kwasa. If you don't mind an eight-­strong cast hell­bent on making the audience enjoy themselves, this is a spectacular feel­good show.
5-21 Aug, 4pm, £10-12

I Am Rhythm

Bird – Sita Pieraccini [★★★☆☆]

It's nice to see programme notes giving space to the foley artist (David Pollock), who performs on stage. Unfortunately, the foley work is the element one would recommend most about this piece: Sita Pieraccini has skill and great charm as the protagonist foraging for food and desperately seeking a human connection with the larger world. But ultimately, it seems that the strength and quantity of the material struggle to fill a show of this length.
5-28 Aug, 6.30pm, £8-12

May-We-Go-Round? [★★★★☆]

Hilarious and witty: a joy. We go on their merry-go-round of what it is to be female, from first ‘love’ in the playground through dating horrors, sexual desire and rejections. Chess Dillon-Reams and Christina MacKerron are multi-talented. It is rare to see dancers who are also such brilliant actors – woebegone, giggling or full-on. The highlight is the satirical strip-tease – oh, and the cranberry vodka. Men will enjoy it too. It’s not a feminist rant, but humour being the best weapon, it’s got clout.
5-14 Aug, 6.45pm, £8-12

Linger [★★★★★] 

From Ireland’s Ériu, Linger is superb: a must-see full-on theatrical show involving dance, film, photography, and a live artist whose sketches are projected on a screen plus an electrifying score. Choreographed and danced by Brendán de Gallaí, the former principal lead dancer of Riverdance and the younger, Nick O’Connell, it's a gay love duet between an older and a younger dancer, highlighting the universal theme of ageing as well as sexuality.

A ritual dance of courtship, the piece is full of longing, despair and repression, endlessly ‘lingering’. Expressive choreography is intensely moving and as you would expect, there is also technically brilliant Irish step dance and the breathtaking fusion of step dance with tango, which steals the show.
5-21 Aug, 7.45pm, £8-12

Red [★★★★★]

Outstanding stuff from Finland’s Carl Knif. Poetic text and unusual, arresting choreography combine in an elliptical existential meditation. Although dealing with Carl’s journey in coming out, it also reaches out to everyone about the courage to be who you are. Candles held in fingers and toes suggest a séance, as he recalls moments of ‘red alert’. Red is also a symbol for courage, but the piece is very much about fear, hatred and loneliness when courage fails. Strobe lighting graphically illustrates this by breaking up the dancer’s swinging arms like knife-blades as fear holds him back, or conversely, opening wings flying to freedom.
5-21 Aug, 9pm, £10-12

Red, photo: Yoshi Omo

Your Majesties [★★★★☆]

A performer recites Obama's Nobel Peace Prize lecture. At the back of the room another performer controls the President's movements as if he's a puppet. But is this concept enough to sustain 45 minutes? With these performers, it triumphantly is. Magically, Navaridas and Deutinger build an intimate rapport with the audience in an evolving satire that is far from one-­dimensional. And the show's bloody funny. If clowning can be sublime, this is it.
5-14 Aug, 8.15pm, £10-12

The End – Jack Webb [★★☆☆☆]

From Glasgow’s Tramway. Disconnected human relationships leading to apocalypse with a corresponding soundtrack: this tired subject matter, and clichéd haze, might appeal to choreographers with its breakdown of movements into tiny components, but it smells of the workshop and has no sense of drama – or dance for that matter. This critic found it self-indulgent and tedious.
5-14 Aug, 5pm, 16-21 Aug, 8.15pm, £8-12

Dance Base (Venue 22)
14-16 Grassmarket,
Edinburgh EH1 2JU