Dance Base Week 3 Reviews

A round-up of new shows at Dance Base in Week 3.

Feature by Stephanie Green | 26 Aug 2016

"So…" begins Luke Murphy in that engaging Irish way of beginning a story. For both these shows, Your Own Man [★★★★☆] and Mad Notions [★★★★☆], are half dance/half story performed with great charm. The offer of a drink, much humour and interaction with the audience (beware if you sit at the tables on stage,) Your Own Man is also an exile’s angst-ridden analysis of what it is to be Irish. Are you Irish if you can’t speak Gaelic, or if you can’t step-dance? The angst of wanting to be ‘your own man’, yet guilt for not being there for his dying friend. Luke flings his body around, arms flailing as he falls apart, live dance alternating with slide-shows of his childhood, and poignant film clips of anguished movement against bleak Irish landscape. Mad Notions is upbeat – a hilarious parody of chat up techniques which lifts the mood. Both delightful and moving must-sees, even if you’re not Irish.

Eve Mutso, former prima ballerina of Scottish Ballet, has become a choreographer to watch. Unknown [★★★☆☆] is an intriguing piece expressing a fine intelligence and sensitivity. Moments of stillness and beautifully placed angular shapes, hesitantly unfold into arabesques as Eve explores the confines of her lit cage, the theme of risk and failure graphically explored. It is only a shame that once free of the cage, there is little sense of liberation through the choreography.

In complete contrast, Liminal [★★☆☆☆]  is a piece of anti-choreography with little expressivity to make you consider what exactly is dance. Extracts from Tchaikovsky, Handel, Grieg, Mahler are uplifting and make one want to dance around the sitting room, which is exactly what Liadain Herriott appears to be doing; occasionally an electronic soundscape makes her twitch and jerk. There’s an inspired moment when she stretches her arms towards a 50s-style tasselled orange light-shade as if yearning to escape her domestic, humdrum life but little else to recommend the monotony of this piece.

The sheer beauty of Flesh [★★★★☆] is in its uncompromising minimalism. No music. The back view of two torsos are lit in chiaroscuro like a Caravaggio or a Bill Brandt photo of the 'Nude as Landscape'. With no individuality we become more conscious of the abstract shapes that their bodies make as they extend an elbow, or a leg but never the head. The weird compositions the two make together are mesmerizing. If the piece had ended there it would have been the stand-out show of the festival but unfortunately Poliana and Ugne tack on a coda where the two reveal their heads and identity. Cue a fight, thrusting an unsubtle moralistic message at us. So nearly a 5 star show, missed by a whisker.

Your Own Man/Mad Notions, Dance Base @ Grassmarket, until 28 Aug, 6:45pm, £12 (£10) Unknown & Liminal, Dance Base @ Grassmarket, until 28 Aug, 7:45pm, £12 (£10) Flesh, Dance Base @ Grassmarket, until 28 Aug, 4pm, 4pm, £12 (£10)