Dance review: NordDance, Edinburgh

As all those familiar with Dance Base’s Fringe programme know, artistic director Morag Deyes is not afraid of taking risks. So unsurprisingly, the Edinburgh-based venue’s latest venture is a genre-busting foray into the world of urban dance.

Swedish street dancers Pontus Linder  and Olov Ylinenpaa prepare for the show. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Swedish street dancers Pontus Linder and Olov Ylinenpaa prepare for the show. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Showcasing companies from Norway and Sweden, alongside home-grown work (some of which was devised in Finland), NordDance is a new festival tapping into our fascination with all things Nordic.

Performed over two nights at the Traverse Theatre, the festival opened with LEAHKIT by Norway’s Frikar Dance Company. A piece where past and present meet head-on, with traditional Norwegian Halling dance and centuries old Sami music, flavoured by modern hip hop moves.

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Dancer Hallgrim Hansegård has a powerful stage presence, due in part to his equally powerful leg muscles, which are put to good use as he moves around the flames of a (real) fire. Torgeir Vassvik’s Sami singing isn’t always easy on an untrained ear, making LEAHKIT one of NordDance’s more challenging, yet memorable, works.

Young Swedish breakdance duo, Pontus Linder and Olov Ylinenpää lit up the room with their brotherly friendship, exploding the macho culture that often dominates hip hop. Joined on stage by a large cardboard box, filled with old LPs and rugs, they excited us with their moves, and touched us with their tenderness.

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Edinburgh’s own Ashley Jack demanded our attention with her incredible movement style, using poppin’ and krumping techniques which turned her body into something almost inhuman. Accompanied by the also compelling Levent Nyembo, Jack explored how we present ourselves in the world. Taking your eyes off this duo was never an option, and although the opening music (a relentless reverberation) did the piece no favours, from there on the choices were sound.

The following night, music played a big part in the success of Room 2 Manoeuvre’s Without a Hitch. Choreographer Tony Mills has selected a diverse soundtrack, which has you tapping your feet one minute, feeling contemplative the next (dancing toprock to classical music – inspired). Four b-boys, each with their own distinct personality, step forward between moves to share their views on life in the crew. Funny, dynamic, clever yet accessible, this work in progress is due a full airing in 2017, and hurrah for that.

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I felt like punching the air after JUCK, a piece by four Swedish female performers that took the feminist battle to the dance stage. Dressed as schoolgirls, they did the usual mindless humping and grinding found in pop videos and soft porn, where women are objectified without question – and turned it on its head. The look in their eyes said it all: I am in complete control and you cannot mess with me. Discomforting and empowering in equal measure.

The festival closed on a very different note, with the sublime artistry of Canadian-Swedish duo, Tentacle Tribe. Sharp, staccato movements blended with delicate sensuality and moments of fragility, as the couple’s narrative played out. With an almost dreamlike quality, the piece invited us to share their journey, and it was a privilege to do so.