s I walk through the door of the magniﬁcent new
Dance Base building, the sound of metallic clanging
ﬁlls the air. Casting my mind back to the centre’s Fringe show, in which choreographer Leah Stein and musician Toshi Makihara christened the structure with their site-speciﬁc piece In Situ, I assume another artist is at work and head towards the sound.
Turning the comer, I ﬁnd not a musician but a painter, cleaning away the dust residue between the railings with his brush. This building is so steeped in creativity even the workmen can make it sing. With four studios, smart ofﬁces, a meeting room, study area, green room, garden and some of the most stylish changing rooms I’ve ever seen, the new National Centre for Dance is a far cry from their humble premises at the Assembly Rooms.
For thirteen years, Dance Base got by on one studio and some cold toilets — now, thanks to a £5.4m National Lottery Fund, Edinburgh’s dance community has access to some of the best facilities not just in Scotland, but the UK. Designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects, the building’s low-key facade barely hints at the vision inside. Stone, glass, rock and wood come together in perfect harmony, giving the entire space a wonderfully tactile feel. Commanding views of the Castle visible through Studio l’s vast glass ceiling can’t fail to inspire, whilst the bustling Grassmarket overlooked by Studio 2 should keep choreographers grounded in reality.
Launched in September by a father and son team — Princes Charles and William - the new centre ofﬁcially opened for business at the start of October, with over 80 different classes in the ﬁrst term alone. Diversity has been the watchword at Dance Base since the arrival of artistic director Morag Deyes in 1994, but the new programme is more eclectic than ever.
Ballet, contemporary and jazz may form the bedrock of Western dance, but Deyes has looked far beyond her doorstep for inspiration: Egyptian belly dancing, Indian Bharathanatyam, Brazilian capoeira, Cuban salsa, ﬂamenco tango, South African gumboot dance, tai chi, West African dance . . . the list goes on. The increase in space has also made room for some more unusual programming, with the arrival of physical theatre performer Alex Rigg and his Emotional Landscapes class (criteria: ‘be ﬁt, open minded and receptive’) and the long-awaited Same Sex Salsa for gay couples.
So. as Dance Base ﬁnally comes alive to the sounds and smells of pounding feet and sweating bodies, The List ﬁnds out exactly what the new building will mean to those who use it.
Dance Base is at 14 Grassmarket, Edinburgh. Telephone 0131 225 5525 for a brochure.
‘If it became- exclusive, or a kind of dance club, it would .lose its soul’ Morag Deyes
‘It’s a totally different sensation from just being stuck away in a dark corner’ Peter Beasley
By day. Peter Beasley is a maths teacher at Boroughmuir High. By night he's a dance junkie. Having inadvertently walked into a contemporary class ﬁve years ago, expecting it to resemble the jiving of his youth, Beasley received a nasty bite from the dance bug and now takes five or six classes a week. ‘I think it gets a bit addictive,’ he says of his chosen hobby/obsession. “Once you start, it's a difficult habit to kick.‘
A shining example of a bona fide dance fan — and one the genre could do with a few more of — Beasley rarely misses a dance show in Edinburgh and has added ballet to his own repertoire. Having taken some workshops during the Festival, Beasley got a sneak preview of the new building, and was suitably impressed. ‘I think it's amazing,’ he enthuses. “There's a nice ambience; it's light, airy and very interesting to look at. We did a workshop in one of the studios upstairs where you're overlooking the Grassmarket; and it's a totally different sensation from just being stuck away in a dark corner.‘
The Artistic Director
After two failed Lottery applications. many people would have given up hope. Not Morag Deyes. Together with the Dance Base management and the Scottish Arts Council, Deyes put together a third, successful application which saw their dream home come to fruition after six years of planning.
Now that the doors are finally open, Deyes floats through the centre like a proud mother. ‘l’ve not heard a single negative word about this building,‘ she says of the public response to her new baby. ‘Just overwhelming enthusiasm and warmth for the space. Malcolm Fraser Architects have been extraordinary in marrying together the old and new aspects of the building; because that's what we do at Dance Base, we’re looking at very ancient dances like ballet. African and Egyptian mixed with up to date stuff such as hip hop and breakdance. So they’ve responded beautifully to what the building is for.’
Deyes is keen that both twinkle toes and those with two left feet feel equally at home in the centre. with many classes ranging in ability from absolute beginners to advanced. “One of my top priorities is to make Dance Base accessible to everybody.’ she asserts. ‘If it became exclusive, or a kind of dance club, it would lose its soul.’
4—18 Oct 2001 THE LIST 19