Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2004

August 6, 2004

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2004
St. Stephen’s Church

Edinburgh, Scotland

August 6–30, 2004

Reviewed by Lea Marshall

Though excellent dance offerings abounded at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, St. Stephen’s Church was the place to be. In that venue, Aurora Nova, a Celebration of International Visual Theatre and Dance, seemed to have a monopoly on intense, thought-provoking works, with three companies in particular drawing appreciative crowds.

Norway’s Zero visibility corps brought It’s Only a Rehearsal, a duet of unbearable intimacy in which dancers Line Tørmoen and Dimitri Jourde brought to life choreographer Ina Christel Johannessen’s vision of the Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon. Johannessen makes this story the basis for an unflinching exploration of the ecstasy and pain of connecting with another being.

Jourde, as Actaeon, moved with elastic abandon through leaps, spins, and floor work that at once revealed and transcended their hip-hop influence. Tørmoen, a passionate dancer and skilled actress, conveyed desire, indecision, trauma, and ultimately frustration at her inability to succumb to Actaeon’s offer of love.

With unabashed sensuality, a brilliantly choreographed sex scene dovetailed with a prolonged partnering sequence performed almost entirely with the dancers locked in a deep kiss. Tørmoen’s eyes remained open throughout the kiss, and Jourde’s physicality treaded delicately the line between tenderness and brutality, supplication and mastery. An unexpected comic dialogue toward the end, in which the dancers made light of their characters, broke the tension. The depth of Johannessen’s vision and the dancers’ performances made Rehearsal a work of raw power and beauty.

In Teatr Piesn Kozla’s Chronicles—A Lamentation (2001), four men and three women used their voices and bodies to carve a portrait of primal human sorrow out of the darkness and quiet of St. Stephen’s. The Polish company combined polyphonic songs and laments from Albania with text from the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, evoking the pain, grief, tenderness, and violence of human beings dealing with death.

Over a deep opening bass line held by the men, seated in a semi-circle, two women’s voices rose and fell in a lament; they sat, veiled, before the men, their bodies rocking with the intensity of their song. At the first pause, darkness fell and rolled back to reveal a lone male dancer, Marcin Rudy, dancing with beautiful, rippled jumps from a low, wide plié. Movement and song appeared seamlessly interwoven, each a natural extension of the other.

As the song pulsed on, a couple (Rudy and Anna Krotoska) attacked each other with fierce sensuality in a gestural duet danced on their knees. Tempered with moments of stillness in which their bodies were interlocked but not touching, their violent tussling seemed strangely tinged with delicacy and caution.

In Russian dance-theater troupe Derevo’s Reflection, a compelling solo study of the mysteries of creation and life, dancer/choreographer Tanya Khabarova set a small table with a precise arrangement of objects: an egg, a candle, a pitcher of water, a jar of earth, a mallet, a cloth-wrapped book. With whitened skin and wearing a white robe and cap, she moved cleanly and deliberately, with an almost comical intensity—a blend of scientist and clown. She seemed to obey an inaudible voice as she focused on each element, lifting the egg, lighting the candle, pouring the water, scattering the earth.

Khabarova’s series of striking images each portrayed some aspect of humanity’s struggle to come to grips with its origins, whether scientific, religious, or mythological. A hooded figure hobbled toward the audience, clutching a bowl and muttering. A naked form hung curled on a rope in red light, slowly turning like a baby in the womb. A thin creature scuttled along a line of light, belly to the floor, arms turned forward at an impossible angle, elbows crooked up: some insect ancestor on a forgotten side-path of human evolution.

With superb control, Khabarova used her body as an expressive instrument. She can crawl naked across the stage with her gender neither apparent nor relevant to the feelings she conveys. Each gesture, each facial expression filled the air with meaning. With one red apple and a tousled blonde wig, Khabarova became an Eve who had not the sense to defend herself from the serpent’s wiles. She poked at the apple, giggled, and twirled her hair like a teenager while the fate of mankind hung in the balance.

Khabarova’s performance, a mirror in which we could see ourselves in all our human frailty, beauty, and pride, seemed to tell us that both our strength and weakness lie in imagining ourselves to be greater than we are.

For more information: www.edfringe.com, www.zerocorps.com, www.piesnkozla.pl, www.derevo.org