SDT All grown up

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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Susan Cunningham reports on the 21st birthday of Scotland's best dance company, the one and only Scottish Dance Theatre

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by Susan Cunningham

Here in TheLab™, we have a bit of a special relationship with Scottish Dance Theatre. How many of you know that our own Ed (along with myself) had our first foray into the world of dance in Dundee? One of my earliest memories of that time was watching a contemporary dance performance by Scottish Dance Theatre in Dundee, confirming that I was following the right path in life.

A groundbreaking company that never loses sight of the fact that it is rooted in a local Scottish community. It has been an inspiration and example that many a dancer and even entire companies aspire to. Originally called Dundee Rep Dance Company, it was formed in 1986 by Royston Maldoon with a vision that contemporary dance could be accessible to everyone, not just Londonites, and that everyone has a dance inside him or her.

When Tamara Mclorg took over the reins, she expanded both the community programme and the performance scope and worked hard to strengthen its resources. Neville Campbell then injected modernity and a new name.

However, there was much excitement when Janet Smith swept into the directors seat. She had studied in New York, established her own company that had toured the world and had strong views on life. She brought a freshness to the company and her concern with people and culture meant she slotted in nicely to the unique environment that the theatre has formed within the Dundee community.

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So this years touring programme is a celebration of the company's 21 years and Janet Smith's 10 years at the helm. It was with particular warmth that I sat listening to Janet at the pre-show talk. She oozes love for dance out of every pore, her body even moves expressively as she talks. I wished I’d brought a cake to celebrate the double birthday!

Choosing to mark the occasion with three pieces by guest choreographers (it's important to Janet to stretch the dancers, no pun intended, and keep the company moving forward). I asked her whether she ever felt like interfering with the work they created?

She told me she had to learn the piece inside out, be true to it, and take care of it for the choreographer. However tempting it may be to add her own ideas, she didn’t want it to become a Janet Smith work, they have to remain separate. Once the work is formed however she did say she didn’t mind giving the odd suggestion.

Onward with 2008

‘Defined’ the 2008 tour is aptly named, where the company feel they are today; strong, mature and coming of age;

Liv Lorent's 'Tenderhook' with a strong cinematic look, beautiful lines and themes of stretching oneself. Reaching beyond the body, the use of clever lighting and twirling ribbons made it feel quite spiritual and indulgent. I particularly enjoyed it when the ribbons left, the bodies carried on.

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'In the Middle of the Moment' by Uri Ivgli and Johan Greben is an insight in to a couple’s intense relationship. It felt personal in more ways than one considering the couple choreograph together. The duet was also set in a 3 metre square, which highlighted the drama. I felt a sense of claustrophobia and unease that I should witness such intimate emotional exchanges.

'Dog' by Hofesh Schecter has strong music, which ranges from Brazilian to Bach, and defined the contrasts of movement. The title gives nothing away (I like how he describes it; “the title of a dance piece is not the answer!”) It has a hard edge to it, which Janet described as urban.

She also gave some insight in to how she felt Hofesh was trying to demonstrate how humans try to connect/belong; favouring duets, is unison not just a bunch of people dancing solos? (Loved that!) The piece also seemed to be a heavy comment on evolution. How we like to think humans are the ultimate race yet give us certain rhythms (and circumstances) and our bodies react like animals. As Janet Smith commented, “I think he is asking ‘Are we the Ultimate? Can we not go any further? Is this it?’”

Well I certainly hope not, as we have seen from the Scottish Dance Theatre, they just keep evolving.

* SDT continue its tour throughout Britain until 21st May

[ Scottish Dance Theatre ]
[ Tenderhook on Article19 ]
[ No Stronger Than A Flower on Article19 ]

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