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Scottish Dance Theatre

Letters from America: 'Lay Me Down Safe', 'Khaos'

by David Mead

March 19, 2011 -- Robin Howard Theatre, The Place, London, UK

The opening programme of Scottish Dance Theatre’s 25th year brings together choreographers from
the east and west coasts of the United States, both dance makers showing their work in Britain for
the first time. Although coming from very different starting points, and featuring quite different
movement styles, New York-based Kate Weare and San Francisco-based Benjamin Levy’s pieces
both draw on everyday experience, emotions and feelings in an engaging and often intriguing
evening of dance.

In “Lay Me Down Safe” Weare turns her attention to desire and loss, the uncertainty they cause,
and how impulse and peer pressure, the latter especially seen in a negative light, play a major
part in how we deal with situations. Reflecting human experience the dancers veer from a sense
of conviction and belief to times of insecurity and doubt. The choreography shows them as
individuals, yet all the time there is a sense of uncertainty and a feeling that some inescapable force
was pushing them to conform and fall into line. The juxtaposition of strength and vulnerability
made for fascinating watching. Some moments were very tender indeed, especially one early duet.
It would have been easy for Weare to get well and truly bound up in such a complex subject, yet her
choreography remains clear. The costumes play an important role in that too, Katherina Radeva’s
designs that put both the men and women in light grey dresses makes sure that everyone is steered
clear of seeing things in terms of gender.

Levy’s “Khaos” starts off equally intriguingly as he investigates continual change and
transformation, observing that we never feel quite the same afterwards. On a very shadowy stage
dominated by Garance Marneur’s mysterious white cloud-like object overhead relationships build,
develop and fall apart as the dancers react to one another. The longer the work went on though, the
less connection there seemed to be between the various goings on.

Before long a huge inflatable invades from upstage. The purpose is patently to disrupt or even
suffocate the already disjointed relationships and rituals and change the space. But it also halts the
dance as the dancers struggle to push it back into the box from whence it came. Next the ‘cloud’
starts to fill with air, quickly resembling a giant white doughnut. It is all rather predictable when
it finally falls to the ground burying the dancers. It does though provide a setting for a beautifully
serene almost dreamlike final scene as one of the women dances with the billowing object.

Letters from America continues on tour. See www.scottishdancetheatre.com for full details of dates
and venues.


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