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Edinburgh Fringe


by Kate Snedeker

August 10, 2007 -- Dance Base, Edinburgh, Scotland

For the 2007 Fringe, Edinburgh's Dance Base is hosting a series of modern dance triple bills. In the three duets that comprise 'Timeless', six talented dancers trace human connection from maturity back to youthful innocence. It's an evening of up-close, intense dance that provokes, intrigues and enthralls.

When Matthew Hawkins and Diana Payne-Myers step into the light for their duet "Muscular Memory Lane", one is struck by their opposing physicalities. Hawkins, a former Royal Ballet dancer who choreographed the piece, is tall and lithely muscular. Barely reaching to Hawkins' shoulder, the petite Payne-Myers is youthfully-slim, her graying hair tucked up in a wide black band. Her black leggings and top contrast with the informality of the shorts and button-down shirt Hawkins wears. Both, however, bear themselves in that erect, alert manner which belies a life in professional dance. Dance has also left its mark: one sees on the bare feet of the dancers the twists and bunions from decades of pounding and Payne-Myers’ fingers are gently gnarled.

The dance itself is set to a combination of silence, spoken word and excerpts from Maurice Ravel scores. An introspective piece, the dancing is strongest in the silence, the spoken word (a list of CDs? Books?) more distracting than complementary. In the absence of accompaniment, the eye can focus on the bodies, and listen to the footsteps, the occasional pop of an aging joint, the slap of hand against hand. Hawkins, the more active of the couple, is a shadow protecting, lifting, respecting his older partner. Payne-Myers moves with an ease beyond her years, but her dancing is a little less emphatic, more delicate. At times the two dance in harmony, the joining of hands in a peak above the head is a frequent motif. "Muscular Memory Lane" provides a touching opportunity to see that dance can only get better with age. The piece could, however, probably be strengthened by editing to cut the time down a bit.

While "Muscular Memory Lane" was as much about two people as one couple, the two men in James Kudelka's "Soudain, l'hiver dernier" were nearly inseparable. Kudelka was for many years the choreographer in residence for the National Ballet of Canada, and this legacy is reflected in recently-retired NBoC's principal dancer Ryan Boorne's appearance in the duet. It's a rare opportunity to see a dancer of this level up close, and together with Andre Giday, Boorne gave a performance of remarkable power and tenderness. Dressed in button-down shirts, khakis and soft street shoes, these are ordinary men, drawn together. Gavin Bryars' score is melancholy, plaintive, the choreography clinging and full of contact. It as if the men are holding on to each other for dear life – they are one being that cannot survive alone. But you get the feeling that they are fighting against a parting force. Giday and Boorne are just in their thirties, but the costumes together with the paced movements give the piece a distinct maturity. The two move together with a natural ease, twisting around each other, lifting, curling. It's as intensely physical as duets come, and a performance of a professional quality rarely seen on the Fringe.

Cassani Dance's two young dancers, Tom and Jacob Cassini, bring the triple bill to a close with their charming interpretation of their mother’s piece "13". There is fine line when it comes to choreographing for such young dancers, and Beth Cassani mostly succeeds in creating a piece that brings to life her sons' stories without being exploitative. The siblings, both with mops of curly hair, are natural movers with a refreshing unaffectedness. At 14, the elder brother is beginning to show the enigmatic aloofness of teenagerhood, the younger, a bundle of mischievous youth in a remarkable calm exterior.

The piece explores the relationship between the brothers, from their commonalities to the differences that are developing between the teenage 14 year old and the still pre-pubescent 12 year old. The entire piece takes place within two large chalk squares, as if the young dancers are recreating their childhood memories in two segments of a giant hopscotch game. One of the most ingenuous sections is the opening 'pas de deux'. Facing the rear wall wearing fox masks, which look out at the audience, the brothers bring to life the cavorting foxes. The younger brother nearly steals the show in his vivid demonstrations of his favorite 'deaths scenes.'  As the littler of the two he of course has to lose in all their play battles. The flowered finale is touching, but perhaps a bit too 'touchy-feely' for such young performers.

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