Urgent vitality: Scottish Dance Theatre in Dreamers and Tutumucky

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
March 4, 2017

Róisín O’Brien

Boldly cut out against the stage, the lights come up on the athletic dancers of Scottish Dance Theatre. These are performers for whom dance matters. As an audience member, you have the joy of watching humans rather than abstract figures on stage, their emotions electric and fizzy, bubbling through to infect the audience.

This is particularly true of Anton Lachky’s Dreamers, the stronger choreography of the evening. While another piece about surreal group dynamics might exhaust its themes to the point of despair and apathy, the dancers’ joyful energy imbues Dreamers with an urgent vitality.

This is dance theatre that is first and foremost dance, not dance theatre that sways into speaking and forced acting out of some compulsion to adhere to the zeitgeist. I was almost disappointed when one dancer finally opened their mouth, but thankfully feverish gibberish spewed out, causing hysterical rather than linguistic reactions.

DreamersPhoto Brian Hartley
Photo Brian Hartley

Lachky is lucky enough to work with a group ensemble (a struggle for many contemporary choreographers), and he proves deft at organising the space, curating group interactions and choreographing visual flicks and intricate synchronicities across the stage.

The dancers are at one with the floor, but it is an earthiness with pointed feet. At no point do you feel they are stuck in the ‘up’ of classical dance or the ‘down’ of recent contemporary dance currently influenced by capoeira and breaking. They take in the white, crisp space with purpose, melting into the floor with forceful familiarity.

Tutumucky, a world premiere from London based choreographer Botis Seva, is hyped in both the marketing and programme as the evening’s big number. Seva presents an environment rather than a conscious performance, a world of husky lighting, clanging metal pipes and netted skirts that give the piece a post-apocalyptic, punk edge.

Scottish Dance Theatre in Tutumucky by Botis SevaPhoto Brian Hartley
Scottish Dance Theatre in Tutumucky by Botis Seva
Photo Brian Hartley

Seva comes from a hip-hop background and Tutumucky works through a need to return to a guttural, violent movement vocabulary. Restriction is shown through the rigmarole of ballet shapes and statures, and projected numbers across the floor that impose themselves on top of the dancers.

The dancers embody Seva’s crunches and throws well, their strength shown in forced bras bas arm positions that painfully hang from hunched shoulders. A punctured crawl across the stage is potent in its control and precision. The piece doesn’t quite get close enough to its extremes to fully enact a satisfying struggle, meaning it sometimes remains on the surface. It’s a work the dancers pick up ably, but the second half of the evening loses some of the momentum of the first.

This double bill is one of the first outings of a new generation of dancers at Scottish Dance Theatre, with the previous cast leaving after the 2016 tour. They remain a rightly celebrated company and it is exciting watching such energy on stage rather than a self-indulgence masquerading as conceptualism.

Dreamers and Tutumucky can be seen at The Place in London on June 16 and 17 (booking not yet open).