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Scottish Dance Theatre - 'Moment,' 'Broken,' 'Track'

by Katherine Phillips

March 30, 2004 -- The Place, London

A crucial argument surrounding contemporary choreography is that of content vs. aesthetic. Along with genres such as physical theatre and live art, some say that dance should be used to challenge, subvert and provoke. Others argue that viewing a dance performance should not be like figuring out a brainteaser, but rather enjoyed for its surface value and visual quality. It is rare to find a balance between these two peripheries, but for at least two out of the three pieces in Scottish Dance Theatre's Spring Tour 2004 Programme, it seems that they have done just that.

Sean Feldman's "Moment" is bursting with images of childhood. Girls in their best silken party frocks and boys in velvet shirts and Victorian tails as pale and as surreptitious as moonlight frolic within the parameters of a rectangular block of light, making them seem contained within a certain time. They play "follow my leader" and run sunny races, whirling their arms in arcs through the air, a shape echoed by their smooth skirts, swirling full circle as they move with vitality and dynamic precision through games and groupings.

Fragments of sound and a scratched record are played and re-played in staccato, keeping the dancers stuck in the "moment." The piece moves in to a more mature, seductive tone with tango steps creeping in to the sound of a plucky guitar and physically close partnerships between the dancers. The development into a deeper flow and the switch into a faster gear reveal images of moments of realisation as well as moments in time.

The emotional pull from "Broken," choreographed by Rui Horta, fails to grab me, although the scope is visually intriguing. A film wall of a complex web of branches is set behind a male/female duet. Both dancers are neurotic and angular -- protruding elbows barricading the space, making the pair distinctly un-huggable and aloof, part of the reason that the chemistry between them is far from sparking as they move within a similarly angular triangle of light.

Didy Veldman's "Track" opens with a bunch of rowdy student types having a laugh in colourful costume; rounds of laughing to the sounds of a playful wooden glockenspiel. The set comprises temporary scaffolding structures with further malleable boundaries created by tape that is unwound and stuck to the floor, poles, each other -- sometimes even taping themselves into the equation. They follow and map movements with the tape then re-trace steps and erase past lines. These flimsy barriers come to represent real and imaginary spaces.

The defined parameters of reality, images of beauty and the controlling forces within society are exposed and explored -- namely education and the media. We see what happens when you step out of line and stray from the swaying crowd. Whilst on one side of the stage there are two posing glamour girls representing stereotypical images of feminine beauty and sensuality, the other "tank" of space houses a neurotic girl in her underwear who is pulling tape tightly around her stomach, sealing her mouth with it and painting lipstick over the top. As she tries to cram her feet into the red stilettos discarded by the posing girls and hobbles off stage, Velman demonstrates how people force themselves into the barriers of the accepted and the "norm." Interesting themes as well as visual intrigue surely makes this piece the "food for thought" of the evening.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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