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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2005

Dance Forms International Choreographers' Showcase

by David Mead

August 19, 2005 -- Roxy Art House, Edinburgh, Scotland

Dance Forms’ Choreographers' Showcase afternoon is a little different from other performances at the Fringe. Instead of focusing on one or two companies or performers, you get to see ten works by choreographers and dancers from the USA, Canada, India, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Venezuela, and Guatemala.

Of the ten pieces, three pieces really stood out: "Auf Suche" by Italian choreographer Mauro de Candia, Californian Anandha Ray’s "Center of Courage", both duets; and Sofia Silva’s trio "Branco" from Portugal.

"Auf Suche", danced to music by Johan Sebastian Bach, is a couple of years old having been premiered in Monte Carlo in 2003. De Candia has already established a successful choreographic career, and it shows in this quite bewitching work. In their almost identical simple costumes, dancers Alexandra Milne (Canada) and de Candia himself, begin in their own circles of light, making really striking movement and poses. As the work develops, they come together and apart, the choreography clearly rooted in the classical ballet tradition, but with a considerable contemporary dance element.

De Candia is director of Gruppo Arte&BallettO in Barletta in Southern Italy and resident choreographer for Hanover Ballet in Germany. After the show, we talked briefly and he explained that "Auf Suche", which means ‘searching’ in German, was conceived following an intense time making "Casanova, the smile of the Devil", his first creation at Gruppo Arte&BallettO. He spoke of how he went to the studio searching but with no real of idea of what for. It was, however, nice to be free. The work certainly reflects that freedom. Nothing is forced.

Anandha Ray’s "Center of Courage" was beautifully danced by David Fonnegra and Maria LaMance. Ray is known for imbuing her work with lots of feeling, be it humour, grace, compassion or sorrow, allying that with striking visual effects and athletic physicality. "Center of Courage" was certainly intensely passionate and, yes, even sexy, with some great lifting and catching involving trust. The music by Craig Chaquico was originally written only on one string because the composer, then twelve, was recovering from a severe accident and could only reach one string on the guitar.

Ray also had two other works on the programme, "Dream Catcher", receiving its European premiere and danced by Devon LaRussa and LaMance, and "From Heaven" danced by Fonnegra and LaMance.

Sofia Silva’s "Branco" simply oozed class, choreographically, from the technical and interpretational abilities of dancers, Sofía Soromento, Susana Nunes, and Tiago Madeiros. In three sections to music by Boozoo Bajou, Peter Gabriel and Tomás Gubitsch, each was with its own mood and movement vocabulary. The work opens with the three dancers, each in their own circle of light (a recurring theme throughout the afternoon); sometimes they move slowly, sometimes suddenly, and jarringly. Think of having a bad dream from which you can’t escape.

Later the dancers come together. Silva always keeping us interested with the way she changes the partnerships, the dancers often working as a pair and one alone, the loud ticking, clock-like sound of the music driving the dance ever forward. The middle section shows another side to her choreography, very physical with lots of running, lifting and partnering. Again, Silva always keeps us interested; you never know what is coming next. Finally, the dancers return to their own circles -- back to the dreams still pounding away in their heads, the movement becoming ever more frenetic as if they still can’t make things go away before coming to stillness.

Silva explained afterwards that the stimulus for the dance was "Black Painting" by Russian artist Kasimir Malevich, who created the first Suprematists paintings in 1913. Malevich was known for his non-objective paintings of bare geometric forms, often just a single square on a flatly painted square. ‘Branco’ of course means ‘white’, the opposite of the artwork. Silva said that the black costumes, on loan from the Companhia Portuguesa de Bailado Contemporâneo, are a representation of the black paint Malevich used. Perhaps ‘white’ is the canvas.

The other works shown included "Icaro", which opened the proceedings, a flowing solo emphasising space, choreographed and danced by Dance Forms co-founder and current director Susan B. Williams. "Invisible Dialogues" was an excerpt from "Makeba's Lament" was choreographed and performed by Ursula Payne (USA). Payne has previously worked in the US with Tiffany Mills, and there are clear similarities between the two choreographers’ vocabularies. "In Between", receiving its world premiere in Edinburgh, was choreographed and danced by Martine Van Santen, a graduate of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. I wasn’t quite sure what it was that she was "In Between" -- maybe student and professional life. The choreography seemed to be a mix of classroom-type movement and something a little deeper.

Indian Vidya Shimladka had two works on the programme. Trained in classical and folk dance traditions of India, Shimladka is the artistic director of Nrithyaloka Dance Company, based in Bangalore, and is a well-known exponent of Bharathanatyam. Judging by the first piece, "Shakti Bindu", especially, her choreography draws inspiration from various forms of dance and theatre. This work about Shakti, the mother goddess who is the energy of the universe, the power of the cosmic world, began with intricate stamping footwork which set in motion the rest of the sound and dance, Shimladka introducing Western elements and thus attempting to push the boundaries of Indian tradition.

Her second work, which concluded the afternoon, was "I ‘N’ U", danced to traditional temple music. Described as being about “reflections and dreams, reality and illusions, ideas and images” and taking the audience “on a creative journey through imagination”, it shows many images and movement from Indian temple dance.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and varied afternoon of dance. People sometimes ask where all the choreographers of the future are. I’m telling you, some of them were here. The only disappointment was that so few people were here also, and that there were only five performances. Several of the works were high quality indeed, and certainly deserving of a wider audience.


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