Edinburgh International Festival dance highlights

Monumental. Picture: Yannick Grandmont
Monumental. Picture: Yannick Grandmont
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Top picks from the Edinburgh International Festival dance programme, as chosen by our critic Kelly Apter

Natalia Osipova and Guests

Natalia Osipova. Picture: Contributed

Natalia Osipova. Picture: Contributed

Royal Ballet principal Natalia Osipova may be one of the most distinctive dancers of her generation, but you’d be forgiven for thinking she was three different people in this diverse triple-bill. The contrasting works created for the Russian ballerina by choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Arthur Pita play to her strengths, not only technically (high leaps, dizzyingly fast turns) but as an actor.

Cherkaoui pairs Osipova with dancers Jason Kittleberger and James O’Hara, and sets them in a post-apocalyptic world where they rely on each other for survival.Maliphant takes the structure of a classical pas de deux (duet, solo, solo, duet) – between Osipova and Sergei Polunin – and gives it a modern twist, while Pita uses the “death discs” of 1960s girl group The Shangri-Las to create a tragic love story for Osipova and Sergei Polunin, her partner on stage and off.

Festival Theatre, 12-14 August


You get two of Canada’s most groundbreaking performing arts groups for the price of one at this uncompromising Festival show.Based in Vancouver, Holy Body Tattoo have been pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance since their formation in 1993. They’re also pretty good at pushing their performers to their limits, with physically punishing works you won’t forget in a hurry. When Monumental premiered in 2005, the soundtrack – by Montreal’s God Speed You! Black Emperor – was recorded. This time around, the eight-piece band joins the nine dancers on stage for a powerful indictment of the world we live in, and the anxieties it produces.

Playhouse, 8 and 9 August

Chotto Desh

British choreographer Akram Khan is no stranger to the Edinburgh International Festival, and although you won’t see him in this show, his presence will be very much felt. Dancers Dennis Alamanos and Nicolas Ricchini take it in turns to portray Khan in this family-friendly re-working of DESH, Khan’s Oliver Award-winning solo from 2012. Set in Britain and Bangladesh, Chotto Desh (literally “small homeland”) is the semi-autobiographical tale of Khan’s childhood, interspersed with a mythical tale about a young boy. Using clever, interactive animations, the show depicts Khan’s struggle to convince his father to let him follow his own path.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 13 and 14 August


One of two dance shows at this year’s Festival aimed at family audiences, this one is recommended for those aged 12 and over, for although the cast themselves are young (aged between eight and 12) the world they inhabit will give many of us pause for thought. Inspired by the 2011 BBC TV documentary Poor Kids, choreographers Joke Laureyns and Kwint Manshoven of Belgium’s Kabinet K company set about exploring the lives of children who are left to their own devices. Living on a rubble-strewn wasteland, the youngsters find their own way – until two adults arrive to shake up the dynamic.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 27 and 28 August