The jute city is on a roll and the DUNDEE FESTIVAL OF DANCE is only part of it. Words: Donald Hutera
cottish Dance Theatre is
riding a wave of good
fortune. Last year Janet Smith's Dundee-based repertory company grew from six to eight dancers. all of whom have been on permanent contracts from the end of June. ()nstage last spring they were a highly appealing. cohesive group of individuals. Given Smith‘s talents as artistic director this is likely to still be the case. even though half the dancers are new this season.
‘With a repertory company you can‘t do everything.‘ Smith says. ‘but you can nudge yourself along.‘ SDT‘s current roster of dances is graced by several strong works. Smith's High Land. a gently satirical yet celebratory take on aspects of Scottish culture. has become a company signature piece. while associate artist Sean lieldman‘s Inside .S'inneii'here has been praised for its sensitive evocation of (‘hagall's paintings.
Jan De Schynkel‘s Daddy I'm No! Will goes out on a further aesthetic limb. A few critics found this punitive drama of incestuous appetites and bestial emotions hard to take. lts inspirations. including Oedipus. The ()resteiu and Francis Bacon's paintings. led to a striking design. A huge meat hook hangs mid-stage. as do what look like two gigantic testicles — separated — that eventually swing like incense burners.
‘lt‘s certainly not bland work.‘ says Smith. comparing the impact of De Schynkel's gutsy. ecstatic choreography to the shock of the titular alien bursting from [an Holm's chest in the 197‘) film classic. ‘lt has to be danced with huge commitment and profound intensity.‘
SDT's newest commission is Revenge of the Intposs‘ib/e Things by Tom Roden and Pete Shenton. the duo responsible for the deliciously funny dance history lesson This Is Modern. The subject of their latest work is ‘ideas that we've had but didn't let out.‘ (‘reated improvisationally. it employs spoken text. song lyrics and everyday movement to put across observations about creativity. ‘There’s also somebody in a rabbit costume.‘ Smith adds. ‘lt‘s an entertaining piece. but with content. It asks questions about dance and its signs and meanings.‘
The above dances tour Scotland. plus a few select dates south of the border. from mid-September. They‘re also the lynch pin of the Dundee liestival of Dance. This event. now in its eighth year. is co-hosted by Smith's troupe. Dundee (‘ollege and the city‘s leisure and arts department. A tea dance. a taster day of dance styles and a huge community-aimed performance evening have all already occurred. The audience that participated in these activities has been encouraged to dip its collective toe into contemporary dance waters
‘There’s also in a ‘()tir audiences are not costume, it’s an
Thi is dern
via SDT’s performances (Thu l‘)—-Sat 2l Sep). as well as a couple of one-off showings.
Dance xii/unlie (Thu 26 Sep) is a lively triple-bill drawing upon the talents of artists frotn Canada. America and lingland. This is partly the result of Smith‘s ongoing search for artistic collaborators via .-\rts (‘ouncil-funded trips abroad. London-based choreographer Jasmin Vardimon‘s eponymous company presents her hour-long Ticklish (Sat 28 Sep: also at the 'I'i'averse. lidinburgh. Sat 2| Sep). Vardimon. who conducted psychological interviews during army service in her native lsrael. specialises in those tricky. unsettling moments when. as she puts it. ‘you teeter between pleasure and irritation. mentally rather than physically.‘
In this clever. cruel dance she seems to have challenged herself to see how many ways people can cavort upon. grapple with and trampoline off of each other. llei' climbing-gym kinetic style has never been more cunning.
sopliisticated.‘ Smith says. "They're used to watching theatre. They need to see something theatrical and visual. Whoever choreographs for us. in whatever style. has got to be a good cominunieator.’
Allliollgh she's speaking of Sl)'l"s dances. her words could apply equally to the Dundee festival programme. The forecast is good for both organisations.
Dundee Festival of Dance, various venues, until Sat 28 Sep.
Re: treading the boards
Wllii interest the recent advertisemeiits i( r a new artistic director darectorate for the Citizens" lheatre. 'l'he retirements of Giles Havergal. Robert [)élVKl MacDonald and Philip Prowse hy the end of 2003 wrl leave a legacy of some of the most intense and creative theatre Scotland has ever seen. After three decades of success. the new appointment \‘.’lll be looking to fill mighty shoes. the (lit/' capacay to bring genuiner ltiropean theatre to Glasgov-i audiences. as well as its fostering; of local talent has made it "ar more than a standard city reo company. With developments around the Scottish national theatre still under discussion. and David Mark Thompson's arrnral at the Royal Lyceum next season. there is an atmosphere of substantial change in the air.
l. xoect a new Scottish theatre. and soon.
Ann Downie’s A Parking Lot in Pittsburgh, touring from the Byre
IF THE NEW NATION, as well as the new theatre, is what gets your interest, then you could do worse than go along to the revival of A Parking Lot in Pittsburgh. Ann Downie’s play, directed by Ken Alexander, which has just opened at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews, will be making an extensive tour of Scottish venues after it finishes its run at the Byre on 21 September. Making a metaphor for the life of the nation through an elderly lady who returns to Scotland after a long residency in the USA and encounters relatives with the worst of motives at home, the play has much to say about the state of the nation.
1:3 Sup 3 Oct Cilx‘.‘ THE LIST 61