Dance review: Island Voices – The Sigh of Body | Gaze of the Kavaluan | Self and Others | The Paper Play
Gaze of The Kavaluan

Edinburgh Festival Fringe dance review: Island Voices – The Sigh of Body, Gaze of the Kavaluan, Self and Others, The Paper Play reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter.

Island Voices – The Sigh of Body

★★

Gaze of the Kavaluan

★★★

Self and Others

★★★★

The Paper Play

★★★

Back for a second year, the Taiwan Season aims to showcase the rich artistic diversity of this island nation. The four works in the 2015 programme could not be more different, so in that at least they have achieved their aim.

Not everyone makes a smooth transition across the cultural divide, however, in particular Island Voices, whose show The Sigh of Body is difficult to connect with. Their intent is pure – to reflect the physical and mental oppression of the Taiwanese indigenous people – but their delivery is hard to find pleasure in. In a bid to depict tradition through modernity, the six men who dominate the piece (a woman appears briefly) wear jeans and T-shirts rather than tribal costumes. But this, coupled with their movement style, makes you feel as though you’re watching a pre-show warm-up or exercise class.

Tjimur Dance Theatre caught my eye at the 2014 Fringe, with its emotive Kurakuraw Dance Glass Bead. The company’s 2015 offering, Gaze of the Kavaluan, could not be more different. Laying languorously across the entrance and seating as we enter the auditorium, four dancers are heavily made up, scantily clad and ooze sexuality. In the corner, clutching a bunch of lilies (or kavaluans), stands a fifth performer, swathed in black and representing the Tjimur village old guard.

A square bordered by strip lights forms the battle ground for the older and younger generations. The former decrees that only those who are virginal and chaste can wear lilies in their clothing, the latter just wants to have a good time. Strutting across the stage as if it were a catwalk, the dancers work up a sweat with some fine choreography and movement, before the lily holder lets loose her hysteria at their behaviour. Overly long and lacking in subtlety, Gaze of the Kavaluan is enjoyable in parts, but a little less crotch grabbing would go a long way.

Formosa Circus Arts (called after Taiwan’s former name, meaning “beautiful island”) is an entirely different proposition – and, for me, the stand-out company of the Taiwan Season. Self and Others is an absorbing blend of circus and movement, performed by seven men who are at turns supportive and mean to each other. As we arrive, they’re already on stage, building structures with wooden blocks. But when the lights go down for the show to start, it all comes crashing down noisily – and we find them lying amongst the debris in an apocalyptic heap.

As they attempt to re-build, they work together and against each other. Gorgeous aerial silk work follows, a brief moment of poetic puppetry, balancing, acrobatics and juggling – but all minus the usual circus bravado. The snow-like juggling balls are made from powder and water before our eyes, and the wooden blocks are put to increasingly ingenious use.

Puppet Beings Theatre also use ingenuity in their likeable children’s work, The Paper Play. After a short, but sweet, puppet show set in a park, they launch into a clever and dynamic display of paper work. Sheets of plain and coloured paper are fashioned into birds, sea creatures, boats and all manner of other objects. Short stories are played out, and if the humour is lacking in finesse at times, they make up for it with an exuberance that has the children calling out the names of each new creation as it is folded or rolled into being.

Island Voices – The Sigh of Body, C South (Venue 58) until 31 August / listings

Gaze of the Kavaluan, Dance Base (Venue 22) until 30 August / listings

Self and Others, Zoo Southside (Venue 82) until 22 August / listings

The Paper Play, Summerhall (Venue 26) until 30 August / listings

Published in The Scotsman on 19 August 2015

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