Troubled minds are the inspiration for several offerings at Dance Base this August, writes The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter
Nijinsky’s Last Jump
Between Us & Hunting Dust
Special Edition 2015
Remembered as much for his troubled mind as his brilliance on stage, Vaslav Nijinsky was one of the 20th century’s most fascinating artists. Countless books, plays and films have tried to capture his glamorous rise to fame, then tragic descent into schizophrenia – and with Nijinsky’s Last Jump, Company Chordelia can count itself among the more successful endeavours.
We first meet Nijinsky as an older man, recalling the time his father threw him into a swimming pool. It’s a poignant, yet subtle moment, hinting at the lack of empathy surrounding his formative years. Then his younger self arrives, leaping into the wings from a performance of Le Spectre de la rose.
The two men spend the next hour in a flower-strewn dressing room, discussing where it all went wrong. The long list of potentially conflicting drugs and invasive shock therapy he was forced to endure; the fans who would stop at nothing to get a piece of him; the near riots which took place at the Paris premiere of his ground-breaking The Rite of Spring. Most touching of all, he ponders whether he just felt and cared too much.
Michael Daviot’s script takes us right to the heart of the man in ways few others have managed, aided by fine performances from James Bryce and Darren Brownlie. Kally Lloyd Jones’ superb direction conjures up the spirit of this great artist, most vividly during a scene where older Nijinsky physically shapes his younger self into a series of iconic poses. By the end, you get a feeling that somewhere, Nijinsky is saying: “Finally, someone understands”.
Al Seed also grapples with mental illness in Oog, a dark, intense work of physical theatre. Locked in a cellar – a metaphor for his own mind – a soldier sits on a chair, consumed by his over-sized coat and the memories that haunt him. A stream of light pours on to him, catching the dry ice and conjuring up a powerful image of somebody under extreme pressure.
Seed has a strong stage presence, and an undeniable ability to move and shape his body in interesting ways. Yet it is in the brief moments of stillness, when he stops jerking and his eyes come into focus, that we see the man behind the trauma – and only then, can we make a connection with him.
Another troubled mind is explored and explained in Fishamble’s stunning solo show Underneath. Emerging from behind a stone, painted head to foot in black, Pat Kinevane struts into our lives. It takes a few minutes to work out exactly who he is, and where he is, and even longer (the whole show) to discover how he got there.
Along the way, we find out about a life lived in torment. The circumstances, cruelty and disappointment that can shape a person, and the glimmers of hope and happiness that come from human kindness. We also laugh a lot.
There isn’t enough space here to truly convey the depth of Kinevane’s talent. The words he delivers are his own, written and performed with finesse and honesty. Connecting with the audience throughout, he takes us into his confidence, sharing the life story that led him to his current location (the details of which I’ll let you find out for yourself). Ninety of the most perfect minutes you’ll spend this Fringe.
A similar amount of praise is due to Tamsyn Russell, a New Zealand-born, Scotland-based dancer who has now turned her hand to choreography. Making one of the most unusual stage entrances I’ve ever seen, four dancers explore the notion of success. Seemingly in it together at the start, a sense of competition soon develops, veering between healthy and demoralising.
Almost immediately, there’s an air of excitement in the room – a collective understanding from the audience that we’re going to be entertained by good dancers, performing fun and accessible choreography. At no point does Russell disappoint. Not only can she make interesting dance, but her eye for talent (Adrienne O’Leary, Freya Jeffs and James Southward) and ear for strong musical choices make Hunting Dust the full package. Any funders reading this take note – here is a talent worth investing in.
Sharing the double-bill with Russell is Emma Snellgrove and her E MOTION + company. Inspired by conversations with friends, works of literature and her own experience, Snellgrove looks at the ebb and flow of female relationships. Both she and fellow performer, Joanne Pirrie have an engaging movement style, but the piece seems to lose its way at times; abstract one minute, stereotypical the next. Ironically, given the subject matter, Between Us works best when the women dance alone.
Dancers in large companies spend so much of their time taking instruction from others, that it’s great to see Scottish Ballet encourage a little autonomy. Special Edition 2015 provides a platform for two of the company’s dancers to dip their toes into choreographic waters, with pleasing enough results.
Eve Mutso knows how to generate atmosphere in Ink of Innocence, a piece inspired by what happens when ink is mixed with other liquids. Here, that liquid is dancers, one dressed in white, three in black. As with life, things change when they come together – sometimes in harmony, sometimes not. Throughout, four large ropes hang tantalisingly from the ceiling, calling out for interesting use, which sadly doesn’t arrive. But there’s a real sense of promise here, regardless.
Jamiel Laurence’s 1 to 10 is less layered and proficient, but hints at a desire, and growing ability, to please a crowd. Witty in parts, athletic in others, it’s a fun palate cleanser which suggests Laurence may well be able to put his cheeky, irreverent mind to something more substantial given the chance.
Dance Base (Venue 22)
- Nijinsky’s Last Jump, until 23 August / listings
- Underneath, until 30 August / listings
- Oog, until 23 August / listings
- Between Us & Hunting Dust, until 16 August / listings
- Special Edition 2015, until 16 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 12 August 2015
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