Inspiration was not in short supply when choreographer Fleur Darkin created Velvet Petal. The flower photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly and Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, are all cited by Darkin as sources of material, as are a number of creative collaborations with music-makers and designers, and a close working relationship with the Scottish Dance Theatre dancers.
Scottish Dance Theatre: Velvet Petal **
With such a rich tapestry of cultural works, natural phenomenon and life experiences feeding into the process, perhaps the problem here is simply too many cooks, and too many ingredients, spoiling the broth. But, given this is the way most choreographers work, it doesn’t excuse the outcome.
There are moments when Darkin perfectly captures those heady days of 1970s New York, when Smith and Mapplethorpe shared an apartment, pre-fame and money. Not through biographical storytelling, but through a vibe of youthful splendour and exuberance – the sense that everything is up for grabs. The dancers wheel a clothes rail around the stage, changing their outfits as often as their minds; delivering sporadic bursts of energetic choreography or speaking contemplatively into a microphone.
Moves more reminiscent of a nightclub floor than a theatrical stage, also tap into that almost hypnotic state a pulsating beat can bring about. And yet, it’s not enough. The fragmented structure keeps the audience at arm’s length, offering no emotional connection, nor a sense of who these people are or why we should care about them. While the soundtrack, blistering at times, does more to hook us in than the movement - which should never be the case.