Scottish Ballet at The Festival Theatre for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival gives us two contemporary works that, although completely different in style and content, each have the ability to make audiences think about a subject matter that may be outside of their normal comfort zones.
The first work MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) by choreographer Angelin Preljocaj is probably the piece that will be the most divisive for many people, and it certainly provided some strong audience reactions tonight at both ends of the scale.
With its biblical theme of Christ’s words to his disciples at The Last Supper, resurrection, attempts to silence faith both in words and actions by sometimes brutal means, this is at times a disturbing piece of work. Performed entirely by male dancers, the work has many possible meanings outside of the main subject matter – some of the overtones are sexual, while others with recent events in France with the murder of a Catholic priest while celebrating mass have been sharpened into focus since this work was first produced in 2000.
With its opening scenes of ritual cleansing of the body and dancers on what could easily be mortuary slabs stacked on top of one another, this work also challenges what is acceptable as movement in a ballet itself. The mortuary theme continues in this work with six metal tables used throughout the piece.
Sound by Tedd Zahmal for this work is also loud and at times disturbing, creating I suspect much of the divisive views of this work.
The second work performed “Emergence” by choreographer Crystal Pite examines the phenomenon of SI (swarm intelligence) and how the collective group influences decisions at many levels on both a personal and political level. With our swarm of dancers emerging from a dark then brightly lit tunnel is has at times that almost “insect swarm” feeling to it and reminds us that swarm intelligence is also a very fundamental force of nature itself.
“Emergence” takes us back to a more conventional contemporary dance setting with at times very traditional ballet moves that interweave with some wonderfully fluid pieces.
Music for “Emergence” by Owen Belton enhances the themes of this work well.
The two works here were always to a point going to be a performance risk for Scottish Ballet, but the thing I always like about this company is that they are prepared to take those risks and present work like this. As a company, they could so easily just sit back and do their traditional Christmas classics all year round, but they don’t.
Review by Tom King