A look at three very different relationships: Chloe Kastner Dance Company in Untouchables

theSpace on the Mile, Edinburgh
August 9, 2019

David Mead

New York-based Chloe Kastner’s Untouchables programme took a considered look at three relationships. Different times, different places, but all in their own way deeply affecting the people involved.

Most heart-wrenching of the three short pieces is the opening Dear Son. Through letters spoken by Patricia Swieteck, it tells the story of a mother and her son who goes off to fight in the Second World War. It is striking how quickly young soldiers found themselves in action, and how quickly some died. We see what would turn out to be a last goodbye, moving through a first letter home on January 11, 1942, to a final one dated April 30 the same year.

Rather than attempting to dance the words themselves, Kastner’s choreography evokes the feelings and emotions behind them. Natalie Ramos as the mother was particularly powerful in the closing scenes as expressed her anger at the death of her son (played just right by Marco Fiumara), and the railing of her at what the army had asked of him.

The middle Hotel Books tells the story of the crumbling relationship of two lovers, danced by Emma Iredale and Ailesha Leylani Ortiz. Performed to text, the dance is non-stop. Relationships can break down quickly. It can seem like a headlong plummet, but here the dance felt rushed, which did nothing for the technique on show. For everyone’s sake, it needed to pause, to breath, to slow down, to let us take it in, just as in the other two works; even if the words are flying past.

Things stepped up again with the closing Break the Silence, a look at a subject rarely touched by dance: human trafficking. At times, the choreography does reflect the pain and violence of the trade, even if it never quite uncovers the real horrors. One duet, danced with sleeves tied together, is especially effective. However much they try to escape, they can’t. They are tied (literally) to the trade with no way out. Unison sections were well danced, especially given the tight space.

Three pieces in forty minutes must be something of a record these days. It proves, if proof were needed, that topics can be dealt with effectively in a lot less than hour or seventy minutes. Dear Son, just fifteen minutes or so long, in particular never felt rushed yet still said everything it needed to; and left a deep impression.

Untouchables has completed its run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.