Saturday, 27 June 2015

Dance at the Fringe 2007

Comedy may be seen as the Fringe's largest and most popular section, but physical theatre is where the most exciting art can be discovered.

Although all manner of dance can be found scattered across the Fringe, three venues have demonstrated a consistent commitment to challenging programmes and the freshest companies. Dancebase, the Zoo and Aurora Nova are essential fixtures on the dance-lover's timetable.

For most of the year, Dancebase is a school: two thousand people take classes there every week. Their festival programme rotates five mixed bills, ranging from hip-hop collectives through to traditional Indian dance. Internationally renowned artists jostle for attention with local performers, as shows juxtapose radically different approaches.

Artistic Director Morag Deyes, recently awarded an MBE for her services to dance, summed up the programme as "about being Out There: caring little for preconceptions about what dance should be or how it ought to be perceived and celebrating the right to be passionate about your art form. Each performance is a messed-up variety show for people with big hearts, open minds and short attention spans."

The free-ranging criteria see Priya Shrikumar present Devi - about the eponymous Indian Goddess - alongside Stephen Pelton's folk-influenced story of sexual discovery and despair and Shamita Ray's meditation on Dark Matter following The Curve Foundation's balletic Duo.

Deyes' selection was based on a work's ability to be "fabulous or funny or sexy or clever or beautiful or very weird indeed or heartbreaking or exquisite or deliciously impenetrable. All of the above united in one single work, can and will happen this year."

Aurora Nova brings together nineteen companies from around the world, showcasing cabaret from French company Decay Unlimited, kinetic electronic sound and light-shows in Ray Lee's stunning Siren at The Out of the Blue Drill Hall, composition with Philip Glass' protege John Moran in his latest composition/performance hybrid as well as the usual motley mixture of dance and physical theatre companies. Aurora Nova has a powerful reputation for supporting works that cross boundaries, yet remain accessible: its shows have won more than forty awards since its inception in 2001.

Down at the Zoo, Company Chordelia makes the trip from Glasgow with The Red Shoes, a witty interpretation of both fairy tale and movie. The Dae-Gu City Modern Dance company perform for the first time outside of their native Korea: Druther's Precarious is a multi-media odyssey through a reclusive imagination and last year's sell-out, The Bellydance Diaries, takes another look at the stories behind the wobble.

Zoo venues spokesman Matt Beer identifies this year's selection at Zoo Southside as "focusing on as wide a variety of companies and disciplines as possible to showcase what's possible in our venue. We've aimed for diversity rather than a unifying theme - hence Scottish Dance Theatre, X Factor Dance Company and Chickenshed are joined in the schedule by 2FaCeD's breathtaking breakdance, the aerial work of Aye! Productions and the union of dance and extreme sport in StreetLamp Productions' Tunnel Vision."

Beer also points out that there is a strong local component to their programme. "One running theme that we're very proud of is the amount of Scottish-based acts featuring in the programme. Almost half our dance companies are locally-based."

If parochial opinion has it that the Fringe invasion of foreign artists undermines Scottish performers, the misconception is easily discounted by these three major dance venues all supporting central belt companies. And within these three venues, dance is revealing itself as a flexible and vibrant medium: inner and outer space, abstract theology, scientific theories, the nature of performance, film hermeneutics and fairy tales are all considered, deconstructed and interpreted. Comedy may be seen as the Fringe's largest and most popular section, but physical theatre is where the most exciting art can be discovered.

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