Edinburgh International Festival dance review: Seven, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter.
It’s performances such as this that give the Edinburgh International Festival its reputation. Big, bold, a little off-kilter (but not too much) and bursting at the seams with talent.
Dusseldorf’s Ballett Am Rhein is a company like few others. Without a hierarchy in place, the dancers are all deemed equal, meaning there are no stars – just plenty of opportunities for them all to shine, a strategy that’s reflected in the quirky, yet accessible, vision of artistic director, Martin Schläpfer. Throughout Seven, a stylish work inspired by Mahler’s Symphony No 7, the dynamic continually shifts. What could be deemed a corps de ballet (a swarm of 15 dancers moving in perfect unison) is actually more reminiscent of a group of soloists, so technically challenging is Schläpfer’s choreography. The brief solos and copious duets, trios and small groups all come with a sense of drama. Abstract in delivery, Seven is replete with narrative vignettes (although good luck figuring them all out – far better to make up your own), with characters showing tenderness or hostility towards each other.
Each of the five movements comes with its own feel, and Schläpfer either tunes in acutely to Mahler’s mood or chooses to ignore it and completely juxtapose. Either way, his choice of footwear (incredible pointe work, percussive hard boots, tender soft shoes or vulnerable bare feet) helps create a powerful atmosphere that never ceases to engage and entertain.
Meanwhile, down in the pit, something equally special is going on. Inevitably during a ballet, the music plays second fiddle, but the majesty with which the Royal Scottish National Orchestra plays Mahler’s complex work commands our attention just as much as the dancing.
Published in The Scotsman on 22 August 2015
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