Edinburgh Fringe: Resident Island Dance Theatre in Ice Age; Indepen-dance in Entwined

Dance Base, Edinburgh
August 16, 2022

Ice Age by Resident Island Dance Theatre

Ice Age takes us back to the pandemic and those lockdown times when we were all going stir crazy at home. But imagine being in disabled and all but unable to get out even for a walk. That’s where we first meet wheelchair users Cheng Yu-cheng (鄭祐承) and Maylis Arrabit.

A first international collaboration for Chung An-chang (張忠安), artistic director of Taiwan’s Resident Island Dance Theatre (滯留島舞蹈劇場), the work was originally put together with Cheng and Arrabit on opposite sides of the world, everything having to be done online. Having seen a streamed version of what was effectively a work-in-progress, I wrote that there was much to like and it would be interesting to see how things panned out.

The answer is very well indeed. It’s remarkable to think that it was only recently that the creative team were actually able to work together in person. I understand there was a lot of getting to know you!

Ice Age by Resident Island Dance Theatre
(l-r: Cheng Yu-cheng, Juan Yi-chen, Fang Shih-yun, Maylis Arrabit)
Photo Carlos Hernan

The opening sets the Cheng and Arrabit at the centre of the piece. We hear them talk. Boredom, loneliness and need for empathy comes through strongly. Twiddling his thumbs as he wonders what to do next, Cheng worries if he’ll soon be able to sell lottery tickets again (the disabled selling tickets is not an uncommon sight in Taiwan). Arrabit is looking for hair product. When sunshine peeks through their clouds, the thaw soon sets in and the smiles on their faces are a joy to behold.

Alongside them, the gorgeously fluid able-bodied dancers Juan Yi-chen (阮怡蓁) and Fang Shih-yun (方士允) could initially be read as their carers but in fact are very effective mirrors reflecting Cheng and Arrabit’s internal feelings and thoughts. They are their spirit embodied.

Maylis Arrabit and Fang Shih-yun in Ice Age by Resident Island Dance Theatre
Photo Carlos Hernan

Chung’s choreography brings the four together seamlessly. Action and gesture are all meaningful with Cheng and Arrabit very much equal partners in the choreography. Sometimes Fang and Juan climb over their partners. Reflecting the unwittingly undignified way carers can sometimes deal with those they are looking after, the manhandle limbs. When they wrap them with their whole bodies, it signals physiotherapy and love. It’s a very honest depiction, but done with style and sensitivity.

For all its downbeat beginning, Ice Age definitely comes with a life affirming, positive outlook. It ends celebrating the human body and spirit, Fang and Juan quite literally taking Cheng and Arrabit on a joyful high-speed wheelchair ride full of childlike glee.

See You is at Dance Base, Edinburgh to August 28, 2022. For tickets visit tickets.edfringe.com.

Entwined by Eve Mutso and Indepen-dance

Entwined by Eve Mutso and Indepen-dance
Photo Ian MacNicol

Eve Mutso returns to the Fringe as choreographer of Entwined, a new work for Glasgow-based inclusive dance company, Indepen-dance that explores the joy of connecting with nature.

The opening film of clouds, breaking waves, seascapes and finally trees, all to music that would be perfectly at home in a Scandi-noir thriller sets the mood. It does go on rather, though. When the dancers finally appear, they first sit and watch, soaking it all in.

What follows often has a calmness (like the music), although the choreography and the committed cast are at their best in the more dynamic moments. Those sections with film backing are also far more effective, notably the highlight of the piece: an extended duet full of gesture and interesting connections physically and emotionally between the dancers performed against a backdrop of ivy on a tree trunk.

Entwined is at Dance Base, Edinburgh to August 21, 2022. Visit tickets.edfringe.com for tickets.