Edinburgh Fringe picks: 5 fearless dance, physical theatre and circus shows

Looking for the best of dance, physical theatre and circus shows at the Edinburgh Fringe? Our critics have picked five powerful performances sure to impress.
Backbone, Underbelly Bristo Square
Image supplied by Edinburgh FringeBackbone, Underbelly Bristo Square
Image supplied by Edinburgh Fringe
Backbone, Underbelly Bristo Square Image supplied by Edinburgh Fringe

Backbone, Underbelly Bristo Square, * * * *

The level of skill and ingenuity poured into the acrobatic routines by Australian company Gravity & Other Myths, is phenomenal.

When they get to the business at hand Backbone is truly impressive. Not just in a people tower, strong hand balance, flipping high in the air kind of way (although they do that too, brilliantly) but in the thought that has gone into joining each trick up.

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Bodies fly from one person to the next unexpectedly, or are pushed over with a glancing foot – essentially, if there’s an interesting way to do something, they’ll find it.

At one point, all ten balance a long pole on their foreheads without a single wobble.

Until 26 August

Raven, Assembly Roxy, Fox Pleasance Courtyard * * * *

Anke, Lena and Romy are all dancer-acrobats. They are also all mothers, wary – because they want to continue their careers – of being called “raven mothers”, the German pejorative phrase (with equivalents the world over) for women who are supposedly more interested in themselves than in their children.

It’s out of this tension that the Still Hungry collective of Berlin creates its beautiful and spectacular physical theatre show, Raven.

Among many other glorious qualities, Raven is particularly striking for the pitch-perfect ease with which it combines language and movement. Guicciardi’s performance glows with conviction, and a kind of exhausted radiance.

Until 26 August

La Galerie, Assembly Rooms - Music Hall, Edinburgh * * * *

Making its UK debut, Canada’s Machine de Cirque company is a cut above the rest.

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Set in an art gallery, the show opens with an dig at visual art pomposity, as the performers shuffle around the stage exclaiming “Ahh” at the works on display (even when they don’t ‘get it’). The elastic ropes used to hold queues in place mark out the space, but when you’re this agile, jumping between them is a breeze.

So too is bouncing breathtakingly on a bendable beam – the kind of routine you almost want to watch between your fingers in case it goes wrong.

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Fearless and funny, without a hint of dumbing down, La Galerie is a breath of fresh air.

Until 25 August

Taiwan Season: Floating Flowers, Dance Base, * * * *

As a child, Taiwanese choreographer Po-Cheng Tsai would attend the annual Ghost Festival with his father. Writing his wishes on a lantern, he would let it sail down the river, hoping they would come true.

With his father’s death, his desire to attend the festival died too. Until a need for catharsis inspired him to make Floating Flowers, a vibrant piece recalling the Buddhist celebration.

Eight dancers, dressed in flesh-coloured leotards/pants and large white hooped underskirts, become living embodiments of the festival’s lanterns. Gliding across the stage, they are the picture of serenity.

Fusing Taiwanese movement styles with martial arts and contemporary dance, the choreography may change but the focal point remains the same – those skirts. What strikes most here, however, is the energy.. At the end, the rousing applause is as much for the athleticism as the aesthetics.

Until 25 August

Kombini, Underbelly's Circus Hub * * * *

Somewhere along the line, clowns have garnered a reputation for being either a bit stupid or a bit scary.

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Perhaps some of them are, but the two stars of Kombini are cut from a very different cloth.

Taking their inspiration from the rich history of traditional Russian clowning (think Slava of Snowshow fame, but with added pathos), Montreal-based company Les Foutoukours has created a show that’s both funny and poignant – often at the same time.

Until 24 August