Edinburgh International Festival review: My Light Shines On - An Evening with Scottish Ballet

Until we’re able to see them perform live again, Scottish Ballet’s light shines on through these video performances for the Edinburgh International Festival, writes Kelly Apter

Rishan Benjamin on set fr Frontiers, part of Scottish Ballet's digital contribution to this year's Edinburgh International Festival.  PIC: Miheala Bodlovic
Rishan Benjamin on set fr Frontiers, part of Scottish Ballet's digital contribution to this year's Edinburgh International Festival. PIC: Miheala Bodlovic

When all this is over and theatres are (hopefully) once again alive with the sound of performers and audiences, few things will capture the arts in 2020 like Catalyst. In five short minutes, Scottish Ballet reminds us what we’ve lost – and I suspect I’m not the only dance-loving theatre-goer that had to wipe away a tear.

One of seven works that make up the company’s ­contribution to the EIF’s My Light Shines On strand, ­Catalyst is set inside the ­Festival Theatre. As the ­camera glides past row upon row of empty seats, in what was once a bustling Edinburgh venue, we’re taken up on to the stage, which is lit by a single “ghost light”.

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A solo dancer’s wing-like arms seem to beckon others to join him, and when at last the stage is flooded by 39 socially distanced, mask-wearing dancers it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking. Emerging choreographer Nicholas Shoesmith perfectly captures the spirit of a company kept apart for months, each movement building with renewed urgency alongside Ben Chatwin’s gorgeous score.

Michael Sherrington’s direction turns the camera into another dancer, most notably in Prometheus & Epimetheus, a double duet for male and female couples. Last seen during Scottish Ballet’s 2019 Digital Season, Alexander Whitley’s piece has been re-shot in the Tramway studios, with Ash Koosha’s joyful music – and the dancers’ skill – all that’s needed to cover a bare room.

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Helen Pickett’s Trace and Sophie Laplane’s Oxymore and Idle Eyes were previously performed live. Translated to film, and re-located to Tramway, they take on a whole new vibe. Pickett’s pas de deux feels as if it might have been plucked from the middle of a romantic narrative ballet, and we long to know their story. Oxymore wouldn’t look out of place on a nightclub dance floor.

Filling out the programme, 2019 films Frontiers and Tremble look as sharp as ever. Until we can see them in person again, Scottish Ballet’s light most definitely shines on.

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Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESp2d41wFqk until 28 August.

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