Edinburgh International Festival preview: Dance

Dance and social distancing go together like oil and water, so it comes as no surprise that the 2021 International Festival line-up is primarily digital. Already a well-established artform, dance film has undergone exponential growth in the past year. If it wasn’t already clear that the way dance is filmed, lit and edited is just as important as the choreography and performance, it certainly is now. So while the absence of live dance continues to generate a hole in our cultural calendars, the works on offer here are still worthy of excitement.

In particular, the return of Akram Khan’s Xenos is an unexpected treat. A highlight of the 2018 Edinburgh International Festival, the show took us into the brutal heart of World War One, also giving us the bittersweet pleasure of watching Khan dance solo for the last time. Following in the footsteps of Chotto Desh, a family-friendly re-working of Khan’s Desh (‘chotto’ meaning ‘little’ in Japanese), we now have dance film Chotto Xenos.

Like its original, the piece captures the experiences of a frontline soldier. However, instead of Khan we’ll see Rambert-trained dancer Kennedy Junior Muntanga. And instead of focussing on turmoil, the piece has many moments of humour, ensuring it’s accessible to all ages.

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Also using film to connect with audiences, Dancing in the Streets will feature dancers who were due to perform in Edinburgh during August 2020. Instead, they’ll deliver work by four international choreographers hailing from Brazil, Lebanon, South Africa – and our own Janice Parker from Edinburgh. With such a geographic melting pot of talent, this should go some way towards capturing the “world comes to Edinburgh" vibe we’ve missed.

Chotto Xenos PIC: Jean Louis Fernandez

Happily, a trip to Holyrood Park – with the glorious backdrop of Arthur’s Seat – will afford us some actual live dance. Field – Something For The Future Now by Curious Seed was born out of the company’s weekly meet-ups in summer 2020, when the dancers were desperate to move and connect during lockdown. A multi-hour durational performance, which will see the dancers respond to the landscape, the shifting light and each other, it should be well worth packing a picnic for.

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