Scottish Dance Theatre Double Bill – Traverse Theatre

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Scottish Dance Theatre

Choreographer: Colette Sader and Emanuel Gat

Emerging from their home in Dundee, Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) highlights the versatility of the artform. Each dancer capable of stripping back pre-conceived notions of gender or ritual, maintaining dignity while delivering powerful displays of passion and skill. Seeking to communicate the celebration of diversity through high-quality dance across the world.

This evening we receive a double bill of movement pieces looking to engage audiences with differences and exceptional visuals. The first is Colette Sadler’s Ritualia, which premiered in 2018 and is an elaborately striking re-imagining of Bronislava Nijiaka’s ballet Les Noces. The second, a world premiere is The Circle by Emanuel Gat, looking to focus on the individual dancer’s capabilities and their unique delivery.

For a moment, a scarlet-hued moment, we become the focus of the dancers. It’s at this moment Ritualia is taking a different direction, playing with status and power. It’s an intense sequence, embodying the androgynous nature of the performance, Sadler’s vision of utopian. Set to the score of Les Noces by Igor Stravinsky, the story from the original ballet remains similar, though now with the duality of dancers. The genderless nature allows every performer a role in the wedding ceremony, Sadler’s choreography is stern, reflecting the newfound potential for the dancers. It’s empowering, with tactile movements snapping into one another, breaking only for solitaire prowls across the stage.

It’s all in the braids. Sadler’s take on Ritualia may push against the social constraints of gender identification, but she keeps one aspect of the original modernist ballet. The grandeur of Rike Zollner’s costume design, in particular, the queer wigs sets the production alight. The act of tying braids is of great importance in the Russian tradition. The act of moving from a single, to double braid is equivalent to the transition from peasant to a woman to wife. The piles of rope adorn the heads of male and female dancers. Enormous in size they morph in bourgeois wigs rivalling the aristocracy, building gradually just as the momentum of the dance does.

Boundless in energy, The Circle is a world premiere piece from Emanuel Gat. Every single one of the twelve dancers on stage has a story. Dressed in upcycled material, they have a personality and aspirations. In the context of production, they have different methods and movements. It’s easily forgotten how individual each performer is, given the homogony of dance. The Circle enables us to get acquainted with these dancers, which it does surprisingly well. Never has energy transference been more visible onstage, dancers seemingly taunting one another, hurling their energy across the stage to their mirrored counterpart. The only tragedy is that we simply cannot watch all 12 at once, you’re likely to find a pair whose routine catches your eye, but they have ways to combat this…

Breaking up the scene, The Circle quite often huddles back its performers away from each other. Standoff moments occur, adding a sense of dramatic narrative to the piece. Where it finds a less stable footing is the relationship of muses; here dance and music don’t coincide. While not entirely necessary, the synchronisation of movement with the score doesn’t work. Its focus is on a new age, losing out to the modernised score from Stravinsky previously. It hasn’t the heart or earthiness to stand alongside the dancers.

Joan Clevillè’s tenure as Artistic Director, if this double bill is anything to go by, looks to be a bold, highly creative time. The versatility of all dancers from the Scottish Dance Theatre offers an enriching evening of exhilaration where we least expect it.

Review originaly published for Reviews Hub:

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