Letters from America, Traverse Theatre, Review
This double bill entitled Letters from America is part of Scottish Dance Theatre’s celebrations of 25 years of performing. The title comes from this being the UK premier of work by two US choreographers from either coast, Kate Weare (NYC) and Benjamin Levy (San Francisco).
In Kate Weare’s piece, Lay me down Safe, the7 dancers appear dressed in duck egg coloured tunics, like prototype kilts, that somehow didn’t look comfortable to dance in. That view is clearly subjective as in reality they did not restrict the dancers’ ability to create amazingly expressive shapes with their bodies.
Throughout, there was music by Leonard Cohen, Alex Davis, Katie Down, Philip Glass, Goldmund, Gerard Pesson, David Ryther and Nouvelle Vague but during the occasional sections without music, the breath of dancers’ could be heard, throwing in to focus the hard work involved in this brilliant physical performance.
The programme describes this work as “a tender foray into our human inexperience... offering up sensuous and arresting movement.” While this reviewer could only agree with the last part of the statement, as the work was indeed full of overt physical intimacy, the word ‘tender’ did not apply so much. On the contrary, among the sexual conflict involved in partner swapping between genders, there was much head-banging, breast-nuzzling and foot-stomping. Any tenderness came after some violence or subjugation. But then, such is the human condition.
The stark stage and silhouetted figures allowed for an individual and open interpretation of the innovative and truly complex and excellent movement on show with its alarming and unexpected firing squad ending.
Benjamin Levy’s work, Khaos, was a more engaging piece. This time, the 6 dancers were dressed in clothing in which the men looked less emasculated possibly because these vests with cut-outs and soft trousers are less gendered. Instead of specific known music, the work was performed to specially composed atmospheric sounds performed on harp and xylophone and percussion, (among others!).
The dancers moved beautifully sometimes in perfect unison as they mechanically enveloped each other offering mutual help within turmoil. A strange landscape is created by a voluminous white shape that they managed to overcome with flexibility of movement and ease of working in unison.
The dancers support each other through this struggle with the unknown, one minute being trapped, the next as if being born again. Throughout the performance, another large white inflatable slowly and miraculously takes shape above the dancers, eventually taking the form of a floppy space ship. The dancers gather under it like a scene from Close Encounters, before it slishes and blobs and jellies across the stage, becoming part of their being so much that they can dance with this ‘blob’.
This fantastically choreographed double bill was enthusiastically received by the audience at the Traverse.
Thursday 31 March and Friday 1 April at 7.30pm