Dance review: Savage, Findhorn Bay

One of the opening works of this year’s Findhorn Bay Festival, Savage is an exceptional show which leaves all who watch it indelibly marked, writes Kelly Apter

Savage by Dance North Youth Company PIC: Paul Campbell Photography
Savage by Dance North Youth Company PIC: Paul Campbell Photography

Savage, Findhorn Bay *****

Everywhere you look at Findhorn Bay, there is beauty. From lush woodland to the heather-strewn sand dunes, the big sea and an even bigger sky, Mother Nature is dressed in her Sunday best, whatever the day.

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Following two sell-out runs as part of RISE 2021, Dance North Youth Company returned to Findhorn with another chance to see their acclaimed immersive dance theatre performance – Savage – set in the stunning landscape of the Findhorn dunes.

With such a backdrop taking on the role of set and lighting designer, it would be easy for the Dance North Youth Company to pale by comparison. Yet with every passing minute, the young performers in this site-specific promenade work make their presence felt ever stronger.

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It starts in the forest, with curious eyes peering out from behind the trees. We have entered their domain, and if we’re slow and respectful, they’ll let us in.

Dressed in khaki trousers and black tops, hair woven into tight French braids, these ten girls on the brink of womanhood may look identical but are fiercely individual.

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Carefully curated clips of music, spliced together so seamlessly they sound like a commissioned score, fill our ears via headphones. So too does a poetic narrative inviting us to spend time with these “wild girls” – but on their terms.

Directed by Gail Sneddon, with much input from the dancers, Savage is a gift that keeps on giving.

Turn a corner and a stone labyrinth suddenly appears; look to your left and a performer sits in a tree carving a stick; look behind and you’re met by a row of hard stares and pulled-back arms holding invisible bows.

Each new scene brings something unexpected, and we never know quite where they will turn up next. As we near the sea, emotions start to run high (both theirs and ours) and the whole thing comes to a deeply moving climax.

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One of the opening works of this year’s Findhorn Bay Festival, this exceptional show leaves the natural world unscathed but all who watch it indelibly marked.