Dance review: PAST-inuous, Tramway, Glasgow

Farah Saleh’s show saw dancers performing live in Edinburgh joined by others Zooming in from around the world, writes Kelly Apter

Farah Saleh and Jamal Bajali in PAST-inuous PIC: Brian Hartley
Farah Saleh and Jamal Bajali in PAST-inuous PIC: Brian Hartley

PAST-inuous, Tramway, Glasgow ****

For a show that focuses on displacement and disconnection, PAST-inuous brings about a remarkable sense of togetherness. Created by Palestinian dancer Farah Saleh and 11 collaborators, the piece uses the performers’ bodies as "living archives”, each carrying the gestures of their forebears. From angry shoulders, raised and lowered in defiance at political decision-making, to everyday functions such as cleaning and gathering food, their movements feel both deeply personal and universal.

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As a consequence of her collaborators being part of the Palestinian diaspora around the world, Saleh was using digital technology long before other artists were forced to in 2020. For this piece, she worked with dancers in Scotland, Germany and Palestine, all of whom join us in one way or another. Saleh and fellow dancer Jamal Bajali are in the same theatre space as the audience, as is video artist Lucas Chih-Peng Kao; the rest are all on-screen, Zooming in from their various locations. Yet despite this fragmented set-up, we all feel connected – not just with the performers, but with each other as audience members.

Saleh created the work in response to the Palestinian refugee situation ongoing since 1948, but also to highlight that people being forced from their homes, risking danger and attempting to root themselves elsewhere, is a never-ending global concern.

The dancers, on-screen and in-person, share their familial gestures with us in advance of the performance and ask us to join in when the time comes. When we do (and we all do), an unexpected kinship arises, further strengthened when we’re invited to share movements from our own bodily archives.

Perhaps most powerful, however, is the moment when everyone briefly leaves their screen and Saleh and Bajali exit the stage, leaving empty spaces while we reflect on those who went before, and those who didn’t survive the journey.

Dundee Rep, 29 March; Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 27-29 April

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