City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh International Festival, Scottish Ballet, Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 19 August 2016

Scottish Ballet in Emergence by Crystal Pite
Show details
Scottish Ballet
Running time: 
MC 14/22: Angelin Preljocaj (choreographer), Tedd Zahmal (sound), Daniel Jasiak (costumes), Patrick Riou (lighting). Emergence: Crystal Pite (choreography), Owen Belton (music), Jay Gower Taylor (Scenic design), Linda Chow (costumes), Alan Brodie (lighting)
MC 14/22: Javier Andreu, Thomas Edwards, Simon Schilgen, Jamiel Laurence, Barnaby Rook Bishop, Constant Vigier, Victor Zarallo, Andrew Peasgood, Chrstopher Harrison, Evan Loudon, Nicholas Shoesmith, Eado Turgman. Emergence: Sophie Martin, Evan Loudon, Bethany Kingsley-Garner, Thomas Edwards, Victor Zarallo, Nicholas Shoesmith, Jamiel Laurence, Pascal Johnson, Constant Vigier, Javier Andreu, Andrew Peasgood + ensemble.

One of the most innovative French choreographers, Angelin Preljocaj is renowned for the range of his work from classic narrative ballets to experimental concepts in movement, inspired by Merce Cunningham.

Ceci est mon corps (Mark 14:22 This is my body) is based on St Mark’s account of The Last Supper, a disturbing, dramatic and intensely physical performance by a troupe of 12 male dancers.

Artistic vision is central to a series of perfectly poised and posed tableaux. The stage is set with a block of eight steel cage-like cubes in which men dressed only in white underpants, stretch and squirm, adopting the foetal position in their apparent anguish of imprisonment. Meanwhile, lying entwined front stage, a man is bathing his companion with tender, healing caresses.

The guests gather at a long refectory table, recreating the iconic image of Da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper. Christ blesses the bread “Take, eat; this is my body” while the Apostles express their love, grief, hatred, revenge and threat of betrayal.

With subdued, soft lighting and a slowly developing soundtrack – bells, pouring water, religious text and electronic beat - the mood shifts between quiet ritual and powerful physicality. Wearing flowing black sarongs, here’s a team of toned, taut, muscular Olympic athletes, each acrobatic jump and balletic leap is gracefully stylised with rhythmic precision.

Through intimate vignettes depicting biblical symbolism, homo-eroticism and powerful aggression, this is a celebration of the strength, sexuality and classic sculptural beauty of the male body, the Adonis of Greek mythology.

In 2015, Crystal Pite was awarded a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, a renowed choreographer who has worked with NDT 1, Ballet Frankfurt and National Ballet of Canada for which “Emergence” was created in 2009.

In the opening moment, in shadowy dim light of a underground labyrinth, we witness what seems like the splitting of the chrysalis with the magical birth from pupa to butterfly and the slow unfolding of delicate wings. And then with a sudden swoop, a vast swarm of buzzing bees is energetically re-imagined by an ensemble of thirty six dancers. With the men in black leather-look trousers and the women in black corset-swimsuits, en pointe, their insect masks create a menacing alien world.

The movement is fast and furious, improvised through meticulous formations all perfectly in tune with the atmospheric soundscape of rhythmic marching, chirruping cicadas and the whispered 1,2, 3 time-keeping of the dancers. A Tiller-girl-style chorus of Queen Bees, lined up at the side of the stage adds a Busby Berkeley sense of glamour and theatricality. The interpretation of insects, hovering, crouching, fluttering in a flurry of flight, is all captured here and the truly spectacular finale is performed with breathtaking speed and synchronicity.

Performance Times:

18 – 20 August, @ 7.30pm.
Ticket prices: £12 - £32