Rosie Kay's Fantasia @ The Brunton, Musselburgh

A glorious marathon of dance, Rosie Kay’s Fantasia is a technically dazzling feat from its three performers.

Review by Roisin O'Brien | 06 Nov 2019
  • Rosie Kay's Fantasia @ The Brunton, Musselburgh

Fantasia opens with gusto, with dancers Shanelle Clemenson, Harriet Ellis and Carina Howard in crop tops and pancake-flat colourful tutus that splay out from the waist. Kay has worked with composer Annie Mahtani, whose score dashes between Vivaldi, Bach and Beethoven in a whirling, almost camp journey through arch classicism and choral fervour. 

It’s a meaty ballet, bare feet often flat on the floor as grounded supports for deep lunges, or in loose fifth preparatory positions that care not for stuffy precision but are a means to the swiping jumps that spin through the air. There is a playful nonchalance in their downward gazes, cat-like hisses and pulsing ripples. ‘Ta-da!’ they seem to say, inviting the audience to revel in their pastiche. 

Cut to Part Two, and the best costumes of the night by costume designer Louis Price: shimmery grey jumpsuits with added tassels. Cue infectious shimmies that make you wish you too had such a liberating outfit. At points this feels like Cunningham technique with heft, the dancers randomly twisting, pointing and lunging; there is an ethereal feel to the purple and orange lighting on the stage, a twilit forest. But it’s mostly a jubilant shake. Part Three is a rather more gothic affair, with long, see-through black dresses and loose hair during a solo from Ellis.

There is a fervour of communication in Kay’s choreography. The movement includes surprises without being based merely on whimsy. There are also moments perhaps of loss, of a pretty image that doesn’t hold up or last. The dancers bring individual artistry and perseverance in this non-stop show: Howard’s jumps slice through the air higher than you would expect, Clemenson has a fabulous short solo embodying the trilling calls of a flute, and Ellis channels Kate Bush as she swirls and searches across a glossy floor.

What’s so fun about Fantasia is the imagery it provokes. By staying with the same three dancers, who morph through cleverly designed different sections, our imaginations are stretched into different possibilities. A baroque ballet hall is turned into an other-worldly plane is turned into some sort of witchy, medieval ceremony. An evening of thrilling music, gorgeous visuals and sumptuous dancing. 

Rosie Kay's Fantasia tours the UK until 21 Nov