Review: Scottish Dance Theatre - Second Coming / Winter, Again - The Place

Performance: 7 & 8 March 2013
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Monday 11 March 2013

Scottish Dance Theatre 'Winter, Again' Photo: Maria Falconer

Performance reviewed: 7 March

I recently had a brief but instructive Twitter debate about spoilers and when, if ever, it’s acceptable to reveal the narrative twists of a creative work within a review. It was finally decided that the ending of a 113-year-old opera that is one of the world’s most popular is probably fair game for narrative reveals, but a freshly-made contemporary dance work currently on tour poses more problems for the reviewer.

With a nod to reader sensitivities, then, I can tell you that Victor Quijada’s Second Coming is clever, engaging, and full of deconstructive deceptions. The Californian choreographer’s material is soaked in the breakdance and bodypopping of his native LA; corkscrews and six-steps meld with arching pirouettes; gravity-defying freezes punctuate softer floorwork. Later in the piece, unison displays give way to fearless contact work and a superbly inventive trio. Tiny Nicole Guarino looks like she was born to the style, flexing and fronting like a true street battler, but the whole company throws itself into the material with aplomb.

The heart of Second Coming is a mischievous, continually evolving narrative-within-a-narrative that tricks, twists and turns itself inside-out before the end, aided by some superbly naturalistic acting from the cast and technical team. With strong physical performances and some very watchable movement material, it all adds up to a very enjoyable trip up the garden path.

Winter, Again by Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren takes us into the realm of a grimly comic fantasy peopled by ashen-faced sociopaths. Everything on stage is grey and muddy, from the vaguely 19th-century costumes of the dancers to the large hanging screen of paper strands through which characters frequently burst only to disappear again. Death lands unceremoniously on stage repeatedly over the course of the work – seagulls thud lifeless to the ground, then a hare and a startlingly large stag. Every once in a while, somebody tries to make off unnoticed with a corpse, as if for some unspeakable personal purpose. The whole piece has the air of a surreal Nordic fairytale, shot through with some kind of ill-defined angst.

Joan Clevillé, who also does a fantastic job of playing himself in Quijada’s piece, emerges here as a character dancer of great ability. Natalie Trewinnard wanders blindly through much of the piece; Maria Hayday seems to have grisly desires centred around a spoon. The action is unsettling but also very funny, and punctuated with rather beautiful ensemble movement. Barely-repressed erotic desires simmer just below the surface as the cast skim and loop across a winter landscape not quite snowy enough to bury their hinted misdeeds. Strømgren plays knowingly with the tropes of Norwegian narrative – mud and blood, sex and death – and the result is an enjoyably unpleasant pleasure.

On their first tour with Fleur Darkin at the helm following the departure of Janet Smith last year, Scottish Dance Theatre looks in bonny good health. Technically strong, creatively versatile and obviously unafraid of experiment, this cast and creative team herald good things for the company’s future.

Scottish Dance Theatre are currently touring. Check for dates:

Lise Smith is a dance manager and teacher, as well as a regular contributor to & Arts Professional

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