Dance reviews: Unholy Trinity | Squish | XD | Piece of Mind
Avatâra Ayuso in Unholy Trinity,

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman reviews: Last Land and Il Gioco Del Gregge Di Capre, Missing and Bird’s Eye View, New (Dis)Order, Sluts of Possession, Squish, Status Anxiety and Piece of Mind, Unholy Trinity, XD, all at Dance Base (Venue 22), reviewed by Kelly Apter

AS SCOTLAND’S National Centre for Dance, Dance Base has a right – even a responsibility – to push the boundaries of performance. But sometimes I wish it wouldn’t push them quite so hard, or for so long. There are eight shows currently on offer at Dance Base, by 13 different artists/companies. Little of it would attract new-
comers into the fold – and some could actively drive people away. Unlike previous years, there are no obvious crowd-pleasers or works of strong emotional intensity. But some shows do shine brighter than others.

Starting on a high note, Edinburgh dancer/
choreographer Tony Mills takes a leap forward each time we see him. New work Squish (★★★) is his best yet, using a sporting metaphor to question our work/life balance and the cost of success. Performed on the markings of a squash court, there’s a theatricality to the piece, brought about by brief moments of text and Mills’ amusing use of props and set. Some bits need trimming, other sections could use expansion (more dancing please, Tony – you’re very good at it) but even so, Squish is entertaining, thought-provoking and touching.

Another highlight, for very different reasons, is XD (★★★★). Named after the emoticon for a laughing face used in social media, the piece has been brought to Dance Base by Italy’s CollettivO CineticO, and is preposterous from start to finish. Performed by three men and one woman in varying states of undress, XD is a series of increasingly bizarre and witty “happenings” that comment on modern life. As much time – often more – is spent on the set-up of each vignette as the execution, and that’s part of the show’s charm. No sense in spoiling the fun by describing any of it, but the toothpaste
Olympics is my personal favourite.

Social media is also the inspiration for Status Anxiety, seen here in a hip hop double bill with Piece of Mind (★★★). Emma Jayne Park’s piece starts promisingly enough, with the performers asking us to keep our mobile phones handy, so we can comment on the show as it’s happening via Facebook and Twitter, but Status Anxiety never quite attains the “like” it’s looking for. There’s a show to be made about the increasing tendency to be online during an experience, rather than just enjoying it, but the potential of this subject matter – and these dancers – isn’t realised here.

Piece of Mind by Jackin’ the Box is far more
penetrating. Inspired by the film, American
Psycho, choreographer Ashley Jack attempts to take her young dancers to the dark side of the mind. More could be done to communicate this to the audience, but purely as a piece of dance there’s much to enjoy here. With sharp, synchronised moves that leave you wanting more, and an intensity in the dancers’ eyes that captivates, Jackin’ the Box is a company well worth looking out for.

Another dancer with a captivating quality is Avatâra Ayuso. The Spanish performer forms part of Unholy Trinity (★★★), a triple bill of solos by female dancers exploring womanhood and sexuality. Ayuso plays Salome, dancing before Herod with all her seductive charms firmly in place. Her gaze locks you in, her arms snake and her red dress, with its long scarves, eventually becomes her downfall. It’s a fascinating solo, full of passion, but Ayuso’s maturity as a woman and a dancer make it hard for the two performers coming in her wake.

Both Italian Giorgia Nardin and Ireland’s Aoife McAtamney present diverting solos that show promise, with Nardin exploring the body as ornament, and McAtamney singing Irish folk songs as she dances, referencing sexual behaviour. But it is Ayuso that stays with you.

Group piece, Last Land, and solo Il gioco del gregge di capre (★★★) also have some pleasing moments. Fabrizio Favale quite literally acts the goat in his piece, finding inspiration in the flocks of said animal that roam the countryside of his Italian homeland. There’s an animal quality to his choreography, and a fluidity of movement, but it struggles to sear onto the memory. Last Land comes into its own midway through, during an
arresting, frenetic burst of activity. There’s also interesting use of newspaper, which covers the floor, then covers the dancers themselves, as they move like mounds of shifting earth. Either side of that, however, it’s largely forgettable.

Two very different works have been paired up in Missing and Bird’s Eye View (★★). The former overflows with intensity to the point of bursting, the other is stripped back and bare. Choreographer Douglas Thorpe of Mad Dogs Dance Theatre tries to capture the unmatchable devastation of losing a child in Missing. But the angry grabbing, ramming and pulling in sits all on one level, virtually ignoring the multifarious levels of deep grief. The dancers (both ex-Scottish Dance Theatre) do their best, but the material won’t allow it.

Simona Bertozzi’s Bird’s Eye View finds her evoking feelings of flight. Her muscle tension is enviable, her movement bird-like, but again, little of the solo stays with you afterwards.

I loved Rosie Kay’s previous works at Dance Base, The Wild Party and Double Points: K, but her latest duet, Sluts of Possession (★★), left me cold. Jerking bodies, dim lighting, crazed painted faces and a primal movement that quickly becomes tiresome: Kay is clearly trying to say something with this piece, but unlike her other work, it’s very hard to listen.

Finally, if you’re too busy to see New (Dis)Order (★) by Polish choreographer Ramona Nagabczynski, don’t worry. Just turn up at any rock club in Edinburgh and watch the punters bang their heads to the music. Then wait until they fall into a drunken brawl outside afterwards. Much the same effect.

• All shows end 17 August except Unholy Trinity (10 August) and Sluts of Possession (23 August). Last Land and Il gioco del gregge di capre, today 7pm; Missing and Bird’s Eye View, today 9pm; New (Dis)Order, today 4pm; Sluts of Possession, today 6pm; Squish, today 8pm; Status Anxiety and Piece of Mind, today 5pm; Unholy Trinity, today 2pm; XD, today 3pm.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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