Dance review: Scottish Dance Theatre – The Life and Times

In The Life and Times, Scottish Dance Theatre have created a powerful hybrid performance to carry audiences through the transition from digital to live, writes Kelly Apter
Scottish Dance Theatre's The Life and Times PIC: Sean MillasScottish Dance Theatre's The Life and Times PIC: Sean Millas
Scottish Dance Theatre's The Life and Times PIC: Sean Millas

After more than a year locked out of the theatre, the thrill of live performance is becoming a distant memory. For dance fans, however, the plethora of films created to fill the gap have done a sterling job in difficult circumstances.

What we have with Scottish Dance Theatre’s The Life and Times is a hybrid designed to carry us through the transition from digital to live. So while the performers have returned to the Dundee Rep stage from the far-flung places they spent lockdown, we’re still at home watching them.

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Like most choreographers, Joan Clevillé hoped to provoke a reaction with his latest work. What he didn’t want was for the audience to think “this is great, but I’d rather be in the theatre watching it.” He achieved his aim – largely because if we were actually sitting in Dundee Rep watching The Life and Times, it would be a scene of utter chaos.

Broadcast live with a single, continuous shot, the hour-long show only works if viewed through one lens. With so many moving parts in play, it would be impossible to consume it any other way. Yet it feels entirely live and in the moment, a shared experience where you can almost smell the greasepaint.

Digital artist Tao-Anas Le Thanh’s masterful weaving of the camera is akin to watching a magician at work. Wheeled platforms temporarily block our view, moving to reveal a new dancer in place, or somehow spirited away. Kudos to the performers and stage crew for their split-second timing.

The structure plays such a pivotal role in our enjoyment the content is almost like a supporting role. But Cleville’s movement, set to a greatest hits of Baroque tracks, is powerfully sinuous, with a tension that does indeed capture the times we’ve all been living through.

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