Dance review: Scottish Dance Theatre

Like a blank canvas waiting to be filled, a white stage lies empty and expectant. We’ve been told in the programme that Anton Lachky is “as much a cartoonist as he is choreographer”, which feels like a strange statement until his new work, Dreamers bursts into life.

Dreamers is performed at breakneck speed to a sublime soundtrack. Picture: Brian Hartley
Dreamers is performed at breakneck speed to a sublime soundtrack. Picture: Brian Hartley
Dreamers is performed at breakneck speed to a sublime soundtrack. Picture: Brian Hartley

Scottish Dance Theatre

* * * *

Eight dancers stand in a row, wearing ordinary everyday apparel. At first, nobody moves. Then, like a flash of lightning, Jori Kerremans breaks rank and spirals around the stage. His movements so quick and agile, it’s hard to keep up with him. A few seconds later, Kerremans throws his arms towards another dancer – passing on an invisible baton – and they too dance at breakneck speed across the bright space.

It’s an intoxicating opening, and makes perfect sense of the ‘cartoonist’ reference. Lachky’s choreography is like a pencil flying across the page, producing quick-witted movements that captivate and, on many occasions, provoke bursts of laughter.

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But it’s not just Lachky who knows how to work a crowd. Dancers Audrey Rogero and Francesco Ferrari are Dreamers’ comic stars. Rogero, a beautiful girl in repose, contorts her face into a cross between a Monsters Inc character and somebody sucking a lemon.

Ferrari adopts a wildly expressive nonsense language that he uses to command the rest of the group. It’s all terribly silly, but in a genuinely playful, accessible way that engages rather than alienates.

All of which is set to a sublime soundtrack of Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, Chopin and Vanhal, expertly chosen to match the mood throughout. A former dancer with Akram Khan, Lachky has clearly found his own voice as a choreographer (although retaining the exhilarating speed Khan is known for). And kudos to Scottish Dance Theatre’s artistic director, Fleur Darkin for finding him early on.

Making a welcome return, Jo Strømgren’s Winter, Again bears a repeat viewing. Nine distinct characters, few of whom you would deem trustworthy, see out a winter together. In the absence of fresh snow, everything is a dirty, spattered grey. The music – Schubert’s Eine Winterreise – sounds pure of voice, but there is little purity on stage.

Guns are brandished, animals are killed and one poor girl even loses her eyes. Yet Strømgren has a lightness of touch that turns such macabre content into easy viewing. Once again aided by the current strong crop of performers, and in particular guest dancer, Joan Clevillé and his almost Vaudevillian sense of melodrama.

Seen on 13 February