Royal Ballet dancers make rare journey to Scotland to join Zulu-inspired production

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL: IT’S a bone of contention for many dance fans that the Royal Ballet (one of the world’s most revered companies, and on our doorstep, relatively speaking) never tours to Scotland. So bravo to Mark Baldwin for bringing a few of its dancers north.

Performers from Baldwin’s own company, Rambert, will join those from the Royal Ballet to deliver Inala, a brand new work, accompanied by South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It’s a potentially sublime combination of music and movement that brings goosebumps just thinking about it.

Rambert last played the Edinburgh International Festival in 2004, a year before Akram Khan – who also makes a return visit this year – and it’s great to see both of them back. Khan is one of those rare dancers who holds your gaze and refuses to let it go. These days, his blend of Indian Kathak and contemporary dance is more often performed by his company than him, so Khan’s Mahabharata-inspired duet, Gnosis, is an unmissable chance to see the man himself in action.

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Festival director Jonathan Mills is taking a risk inviting Lemi Ponifasio’s MAU company back to Edinburgh, but I’m very glad he is. The Samoan choreographer creates work that’s far from easy, but if you can leave your preconceptions about dance and entertainment at the door, you’ll be richly rewarded by new work, I Am.

Pina Bausch created Sweet Mambo in 2008, a year before she died, but five years after the loss of its legendary leader, Tanztheater Wuppertal is still going strong. Mills is a big fan of Bausch’s work, and quite rightly sees this glamorous take on the challenges of romantic relationships as the ideal way to keep her memory alive with Festival audiences.

So, just four dance works this year, but every one of them worth a punt.