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Scottish Dance Theatre
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Author:  David [ Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:56 am ]
Post subject:  Scottish Dance Theatre

Letters from America
(Lay Me Down Safe, Khaos)
Scottish Dance Theatre
Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place, London; March 19, 2011

by David Mead

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 to Eastleigh, Newbury, Edinburgh, Dundee, Oldenburg (Germany), Coventry, Tobermory and Huddersfield . See for full details of dates and venues.

This review, with images, will appear subsequently in the magazine.

Author:  David [ Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:59 am ]
Post subject:  Janet Smith

Janet Smith to leave Scottish Dance Theatre

Janet Smith, SDT Artistic Director for 14 years, is to leave the company to take up the post of principal at Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) in February 2012. During her time with SDT, Scotland’s national contemporary dance company, the organisation has grown in size, talent and strength from 5 to 22 staff and become one of Creative Scotland’s Foundation Organisations. Janet’s drive and passion have led SDT to become an award winning, internationally renowned company. Her experience and eye for talent has created partnerships with both established and up and coming choreographers. It is a testament to her style of leadership that many SDT dancers have gone on to become successful choreographers and directors themselves, to dance with international companies or else have stayed with the company for many years. Through Janet’s guidance SDT is recognized nationally for pioneering leadership in Arts and Disability.

The skill and talent emerging from within the company under Janet Smith’s leadership has enabled a clear interim plan to be put in place whilst the company recruits a new Artistic Director. Current SDT Rehearsal Director/Dancer James MacGillivray, will take up the position of Acting Artistic Director and SDT dancer Joan Clevillé, a choreographic power within the company, will step up to the role of Acting Rehearsal Director. James MacGillivray recently gained an MA in Contemporary Dance specializing in authentic leadership, through the London School of Contemporary Dance. In his two and a half years at SDT, Joan Clevillé has displayed a clear choreographic talent. His recent work Dreamt for Light Years was performed by SDT during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and at several international festivals in summer 2011. “Simple, emotive and personal this is among the strongest and most promising work from a young choreographer out there” The Journal online

Janet Smith says, “It has been a wonderful time in my life, working in the creative family of Scottish Dance Theatre –a world class company and a cultural ambassador for Scotland.

I’ll miss friends and colleagues here at Dundee Rep and across the dance and arts community in Scotland. But a rare opportunity - to contribute more broadly to the next generation of dance artists, has come my way and - with the company on top form and mid-term funding secured, the timing feels right to step aside from the company and make way for fresh artistic leadership.

I’m happy that my leaving creates the space for two of our most experienced artists, James and Joan, to shift up into new interim leadership roles for which I think they are more than ready. The appointment of SDT’s next Artistic Director will be made in spring, with a provisional start date in August 2012. I aim to relish these final months with company, before I take up my new post in February and I’m sure I will haste me back often to Dundee and Scotland.”

Author:  David [ Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Scottish Dance Theatre

Fleur Darkin appointed new Artistic Director

Scottish Dance Theatre has announced that Fleur Darkin will succeed Janet Smith as Artistic Director, effective Autumn 2012.

Darkin is former Associate Artist at Bristol Old Vic and has enjoyed choreographic stints at Laban and the Royal Opera House. Her current touring work, the "Blake Diptych", won the Jardin D’Europe commission and was co-commissioned in the UK by Southbank Centre, Laban, Salisbury Arts Centre, Pavilion Dance, Bristol Old Vic and Warwick Arts Centre. Internationally, Darkin’s artistic excellence has been recognised with residencies at Junges Hundes (Germany), P.A.R.T.S. (Belgium) and Theatre Mono (Lebanon).

Peter Inglis Chairman of Dundee Rep Theatre expressed his delight at the appointment, and his confidence that Darkin will bring a fresh, exciting and ambitious vision to the dance company.

Fleur Darkin said, "I am delighted to be joining Scottish Dance Theatre at this unique moment for Dundee and Scotland. The opportunity to develop the potential of this globally celebrated dance company fills me with inspiration. SDT is a cultural leader, and its unique relationship to Dundee Rep is a tremendous breeding ground for collaborative practice and innovation. There is no other organisation like this in the UK!

"I am passionate about virtuosity and the power of dance to engage and liberate audiences. I look forward to broadening the possibilities of what an internationally touring dance rep company can be. Working with the exceptional SDT dancers, we will pioneer a dance inquiry that leads us into a new artistic era.

"I look forward to collaborating with artists from everywhere as we push the national dance agenda forward and create a space for artistic excellence - that can inspire Scotland and the world."

SDT is presently mid way through its Spring 2012 tour. Their London performances at The Place (9 & 10 March) will be reviewed here.

Author:  David [ Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Scottish Dance Theatre

‘A Touch of Red’, ‘My Sweet Little Fur’, ‘Love Games’, ‘Pavlova’s Dogs’
Scottish Dance Theatre
The Place, London; March 10, 2012

David Mead

In their final London season with Janet Smith as Artistic Director, Scottish Dance Theatre presented a diverse programme that emphasised the theatrical and showed off the multiple talents of her excellent company.

Highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Rachel Lopez de la Nieta’s “Pavlova’s Dogs”, a 40-minute look at the humour you can find in the absurdity of human behaviour. Essentially it’s an experiment in how we watch dance, inspired, as you might guess, by Pavlov’s theory and the choreographer’s interest in the humour to be found in the absurdity of human behaviour.

Four women wearing what looked like circa 1970 school dresses repeat a phrase. Seated at a table and speaking directly to the audience, Tony Fitzgibbons puts a story to matters, which ratchets up a notch with each telling. Alongside him, fellow dancer Joan Clevillé describes the body in scientific terms. Initial notions of beauty are slowly eroded by Fitzgibbons’ increasingly dark storytelling, and two men wearing huge floppy bunny ears and who were sometimes dressed in lurid blue suits that made them look remarkably like yeti that had suffered some appalling accident, and who liberally applied lipstick and dry ice to the ladies, the latter making it look like their head or feet were smouldering.

The work definitely raises interesting questions of perception, and why we see things in any particular way, but for the most part its appeal lies in the humour. Fitzgibbons in particular hit all the right buttons. He had absolute mastery of the text, and soon had the audience laughing on cue.

The first half of the evening was given over to a solo by Israeli choreographer Idan Cohen alongside two shorter works that showed off some of the choreographic talent in the company. Best of these was Joan Clevillé’s “Love Games”. The way he showed couples trying to deal with situations was absolutely true to life. I would guess most of the audience recognised at least some of what happened in front of them. Among the highlights was a beautifully expressive solo from the gifted Solène Weinachter. When not to the fore, the dancers sat on a large rug, sometimes eating from a box of cornflakes. At one point one of them dons a knight’s helmet and eats through the visor. Don’t ask why, but it summed up nicely the light, whimsical and quite engaging nature of the piece.

There were more references to love and relationships in Nicole Guarino’s “A Touch of Red”. It had the sense of a couple (Fitzgibbons and Guarino) on a night in. The opening section reminded me of the way a couple might fidget or gently play with each other on the sofa in front of not particularly interesting television. Good use is also made of a table and two chairs, around which much of the later action is centred.

Last successful was Idan Cohen’s “My Sweet Little Fur”, a solo that presents a dialogue between a man and the hounds residing in him. The programme reckoned it aroused “questions of personal identity and cultural behaviour opposite animalistic ones.” Joan Clevillé is a powerful dancer, but it was all far too obvious with lots of overt scratching, rolling, tail-chasing and barking, not to mention what sounded like howling wolves in the music. Clevillé did what he could with it, but methinks a trip to the vet is called for.

Smith leaves this summer to lead the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, but she leaves the company in rare health. Incoming director Fleur Darkin is lucky indeed.

Scottish Dance Theatre continue on tour to Newbury, then throughout Scotland, and on to the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC in June. Click here for details.

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