Intimate celebration of a life lived in full

Elbow Room Dance Company ****


Arousiak Torosian led a perilous life. Born in late 19th century Turkey, she fled from one trouble-spot to another: Jerusalem, Cyprus, Beirut. Losing four sisters along the way, she finally settled in London in 1976, 12 years before her death. But Torosian left behind a legacy: a rich cultural history, copious anecdotes and - crucially - a granddaughter, Ani Tchakmakdjian. Last seen in the sensuous solo Metchen, Tchakmakdjian has branched out, enlisting a video artist, composer, writer and several dancers to help celebrate the life of her late grandmother. The result is Medsmama, an intimate piece of dance theatre two years in the making, painstakingly researched and developed by its many collaborators.

A gentle opening finds Tchakmakdjian and Torosian (played by a wonderfully charismatic Ruth Posner) on small wooden chairs, one singing softly, the other speaking from the heart. Portraits of the women’s younger selves are projected onto a backdrop, setting the scene for the photographic stills and video footage to come - both from family archives and harrowing news reels. Images of simple country life juxtapose with snapshots of bustling cities and the glamorous Armenian folk dancer, Shakeh Avanessian. While on stage, Tchakmakdjian runs through a humorous check-list of what makes a "good Armenian wife".

Tchakmakdjian’s background in contemporary dance blends well with the Armenian folk moves she inherited from Torosian, creating a bridge between the generations. Occasionally the pace drops to a low level, with bursts of energetic choreography performed by Tchakmakdjian and Adrienne Hart a welcome respite. And, having seen what Tchakmakdjian was capable of in Metchen, stronger emphasis could have been placed on the actual dancing. But John Harvey’s emotive text, Daniel Weaver’s haunting score and John McGeoch’s video work all conspire to make a show almost as full as Torosian’s life. Catch it at the Tron in Glasgow tonight and tomorrow, or at the Traverse, Edinburgh, on Saturday.


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