When Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring opened in Paris in May 1913, it was a shocked audience that beheld his bold vision. Just over a century later, Akram Khan Company took to the stage in Edinburgh, with its Stravinsky-inspired piece iTMOi, in front of quite a different crowd – the delegates of British Dance Edition (BDE).
British Dance Edition - King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
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Held every two years, BDE brings together hundreds of dance industry professionals from around the world, so the potential to shock is minimal. They’ve been there and done that, many times over.
Khan’s was the first of three shows open to the public, with the rest of BDE taking place behind closed doors. The King’s Theatre also played host to a double-bill from Scottish Dance Theatre and east London-based Avant Garde Dance, with Israeli-born Hofesh Shechter and his company closing the weekend, a diverse line-up of large-scale work that did the BDE curators proud.
For those used to Khan’s work, iTMOi (in the Mind of Igor) may not have the power to shock but it certainly holds some surprises. At times, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the latest creation by Russian performance troupe, Derevo.
Then Khan’s trademark hybrid of Indian Kathak and contemporary dance kicks in, and we are afforded a glimpse of the choreographic brilliance we know and love. Yet despite iTMOi’s theatricality, and the sense that Khan is moving into new and interesting places, an emotional connection with the audience has been partly lost along the way.
Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren knows a thing or two about injecting dance with a healthy dose of drama. His Ibsen-esque work Winter, Again is full of stories, most of them macabre, that take us to the heart of a Scandinavian winter. White drapes and costumes, dirty at the edges like days-old snow, fill the stage.
Operating at the other end of the contemporary dance continuum, Avant Garde Dance treated us to a snapshot of its 60-minute long Black Album. Picture the feel-good slickness of a Saturday night TV hip hop group, strip out the sanitised mainstream niceties and replace them with full-on emotion – that’s Avant Garde Dance.
Hofesh Shechter spent the formative part of his career with Batsheva dance company, and the glorious legacy of that is the fluidity and wild abandon of his choreography. Performed by 16 dancers, Sun is a work bursting with life and teeming with ideas. Conflict, both human and animal, sits side by side with the ever-present hope of harmony and resolution.
Like Khan’s work, it fires multiple images at the audience that beg to be analysed, which, along with the sometimes abrasive soundtrack, can keep you at arm’s length. But as always, the solution is to go with Shechter’s flow, and ponder the deeper stuff later.
Seen on 02.02.14