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Scottish Dance Theatre
Scottish Dance Theatre in “Dreamers.” Photograph by Brian Hartley

Dreamers

Scottish Dance Theatre's “Dreamers” & “Process Day”

Performance
Scottish Dance Theatre: “Dreamers” / “Process Day”
Place
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, February 17 & 18, 2016
Words
Lorna Irvine

Fleur Darkin’s brilliant Scottish Dance Theatre are like chameleons, or shape-shifters: endlessly versatile. Anton Lachky’s utterly demented “Dreamers” is a study in waving your freak flag high. Everyone in the ensemble of ten gets a chance to shine. Soloists ‘nominate’ their dancer of choice, and their improvisational style is as individual as a fingerprint.

Whether a body-popping Olive Oyl like Aya Steigman, or Matthew Robinson’s angular cat stretches, all is exaggerated to the point of lunacy. Bodies contort, and seem possessed, uncontrollably itching, juddering and fitting on the floor. It’s sublime surrealism.

The bizarre mask-like grimace of Audrey Rogero is set up against the more elegant shapes of Steigman, as sisterly rivals, then deployed to extremes when she ‘conducts’ the others in a jelly-like mass. Now power-crazed, she selects from three male dancers who are stripped to the waist, in a sly subversion of the male gaze. She’s calling the shots here.

Sexual power-play is homaged throughout. While there are male peacock displays of dominance, such as Francesco Ferrari’s macho balletic posturing, Amy Hollinshead performs as ‘one of the boys’ alongside the male dancers, in sliding, ferocious and tribal movement. Limbs flex and spread in their group movement, tough and tense.

By the finale, things do get rather silly. Ferrari is now the gurning puppet master, controlling the others by emitting shrill gibberish, and cackles. Hands spring up like exclamation marks. Backs arch and there are short, sharp bursts of movement. It’s pitched between a laughter yoga class and Shamanic trickster ritual. Capricious, oddball, and often rather beautiful.

When does a kiss become a bite? That seems to be the question posed by “Process Day,” the glorious piece by long-term collaborators Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.

Inspired by Tirzah and Micachu’s track “I’m Not Dancing” and featuring an eerie ambient score by composer and DJ Ori Lichtik, this minimalist study is sexually-charged, linking contemporary dance choreography to club culture. Repeated movements by the half-lit androgynous-looking dancers seem to emulate ballroom (as in the 80s’ gay club scene) with flamenco arms held aloft and voguing posturing. They are all dressed alike in grey and black with hair slicked back. The placement of a head or leg is precise, and preening dancer Josh Wild flexes and twitches to pizzicato strings in his solo.

As it progresses and mutates, so too does a darker tone, emulating Dystopian future worlds. It is every man or woman for themselves in this battleground. Wild and Ferrari become predatory. A ménage à trois scenario is ambiguously rendered; kisses are delivered without tenderness. A phallic fist appears underneath Steigman’s crotch and swings like a pendulum. Hands which initially protect and hold up dancers spread out in a menacing spidery pattern—enough to induce arachnophobia. Groins are headbutted, heads are shoved back and the hip—swivelling ensemble pulse as one singular unit, to the moody soundscape.

The dancers are now other, no longer human, hidden by haze and shadows. They seem as moving statues, created to celebrate the body beautiful. It’s a troubling, animalistic representation of sexual desire, almost reminiscent of HR Gieger’s sci-fi artwork, or Expressionist cinema in palette and mood. An undercurrent of violence is ever-present, bubbling away underneath the surface.

Provocative and undulating, it is so orgiastic and mesmerising that you can get completely immersed. As with the title of Micachu’s most celebrated film soundtrack work, this beautiful, visceral work really gets under the skin.

Stephanie Lake
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