Edinburgh Festival Fringe dance, physical theatre & circus reviews: See You | Ice Age | Scene Africa | EGG

Our latest round of reviews includes some utterly captivating contemporary dance, and a touching piece inspired by lockdown. Words by Kelly Apter and Fiona Shepherd.

Taiwan Season: See You *****

Dance Base (Venue 22)

The emotions we see played out in Hung Dance’s new work may have started life inside the heart of choreographer Lai Hung-Chung, but we’re all invited to join him. Such is the skill of this hugely accomplished young dance maker, that despite the very personal experiences that inspired the piece, we can all connect with the action on stage.

See You. PIC: Chen Chi-ChangSee You. PIC: Chen Chi-Chang
See You. PIC: Chen Chi-Chang

Eight talented dancers, all equally at home moving as one united whole or shining bright in a solo, bring his work to life. Their movements are angular and jerky one minute, tender the next; lightning fast then delivered in such slow motion, it’s almost like watching a tableau.

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At almost an hour long, and essentially abstract in quality with no set or props, Hung-Chung could easily have lost our attention on occasion. Yet he holds us in his grasp throughout, constantly changing the pace, emotional intent, lighting design and the glorious patterns and formations maIede by these fluid bodies. Whether they’re grouped together in a huddle, swaying gently in unison like underwater fronds or scattered around the stage in duos and trios, the dancers have our attention.

Because it’s not just their movement that compels us, but the feeling behind it. Hung-Chung speaks in the programme notes about loving and losing those close to him, of challenging relationships with family members, of traumatic events that stayed with him. He knows we all have such moments tucked away inside us and somehow manages to retain subtlety and nuance in his movement, while reminding us we’re not alone.

Elegant yet strong, deeply personal yet universal, See You is one of the purest, most engaging examples of contemporary dance at this year’s Fringe. Kelly Apter

Until 28 August

Ice Age ****

Dance Base (Venue 22)

The pandemic was tough for everyone, but for those for whom daily walks or leaving the house at all was impossible, it bit even harder. Inspired by the increased loneliness and need for empathy felt by many during that time, Ice Age is a beautiful and truly touching piece of inclusive dance.

Co-created by Chung-An Chang, artistic director of Taiwan’s Resident Island Dance Theatre, and disabled French choreographer Maylis Arrabit, it’s a triumph of cross-cultural connection. Chang is partially sighted, Arrabit is a wheelchair user, they live on opposite sides of the world and for much of the rehearsal process, could only meet online. Yet the results are wonderful.

Able-bodied dancers Yi-Chen Juan and Shih-Yun Fang are as fluid as water as they traverse the space. Whether they’re dancing alone, dueting with each other, with Arrabit or her fellow wheelchair user Yo Cheng Cheng, their polished technique is captivating. Their legs slide across the floor, stretch high in the air or climb gently over their companions; their arms envelop whoever they’re with or manoeuvre the wheelchairs with speed and grace.

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Sitting in their chairs, Arrabit and Cheng Cheng re-live some of the draining repetition of lockdown life. Cheng Cheng worries if he’ll be able to sell lottery tickets again soon, Arrabit is looking for hair product, as life gets smaller and smaller. When things eventually start to look up, the smile on Cheng Cheng’s face lights up the room and radiates freedom.

Chung-An Chang’s work was last seen at the Fringe in 2016, with the powerful Lost in Grey. To see this talented artist take on inclusive dance for the first time, and imbue it with such warmth and integrity – as well as highly engaging choreography – it’s a moment to treasure. Kelly Apter

Until 21 August

Scene Africa ***

Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 302)

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There’s a real sense of joy on the stage during this celebration of African culture, and South Africa in particular. Four performers, each with a deep affection for their homeland, share traditional songs and dances with an exuberance that’s infectious. Due to travel issues (sadly a theme at this year’s Fringe), four other performers have yet to arrive, but when they do, the stage really will be bursting with energy.

For now, they work with what they’ve got and there is still much to enjoy. In particular, our cheerful ‘host’ has a powerful vocal style that drives home the message of his sentimental love song. Mostly, the music is recorded – but when two performers pick up their djembe drums, we get a brief but wonderful blast of what they’re capable of.

The ‘scene’ of the title refers to short sequences of chat, which struggle to carry across and really only get in the way of the boot-slapping, foot stamping, arm swinging dancing we know and love from their previous Fringe shows such as I Am Rhythm. Throughout, short videos depict crashing waves, mountains and tightly packed townships, to help deliver us to the heart of Africa. Kelly Apter

Until 29 August

EGG ***

House of Oz (Venue 73)

Australian performer Erin Fowler leads us on a fertility fandango in her autobiographical dance show EGG, creating a sweet upbeat mood around often downbeat themes, combining simple, supple movement with a great soundtrack, from sperm sock puppetry to Enya’s Orinoco Flow to the rapture of Minnie Riperton’s Lovin’ You and the infectious appeal of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

She zips quickly through her own premature birth and life landmarks from first kiss to first break-up, giving due consideration to the highs and lows of her first period, but then Covid hits, the domestic dream threatens to evaporate and the needling soundtrack of ticking clocks and clucking hens takes over.

Fowler sticks to a light treatment of deep feelings throughout – a joyous runaround to It’s Raining Men results in a split poncho/condom and a sultry sci-fi dream sequence while she waits for the result of her pregnancy test. It transpires that Fowler comes from a long line of women with large families. The imagery of empty egg boxes as she tries to bake her own cake is blatant but a more abstract closing dance encompassing grief, acceptance and healing leaves the story open-ended. Fiona Shepherd

Until 28 Aug

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