The Scottish Dance Theatre’s three-piece performance, presented by The Hindu, was an eclectic mix of the poetic, the energetic and the easy-to-watch
The abstracted patterns of contemporary dance as presented by the Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) were an invitation to Chennai audience to either structure in their own meaning or just revel in the movement. The company presented an eclectic evening of dance, three pieces selected from their repertoire.
The programme arc worked well — opening with Liv Lorent’s poetic and richly textured Luxuria; followed by the short duet Drift by James Wilton; and then the energetic, wittily constructed DOG by Hofesh Shechter. The works by these guest choreographers are each highly regarded; Shechter in particular, is a much sought-after choreographer in the London scene today.
Luxuria, the longest at about 33 minutes, evoked old-fashioned romanticism, thanks to the rich, classical scores and elaborate costumes — the women in delicately tinted, hooped ballgowns, and the men in unfastened straightjackets adorned with multiple ties.
The visual beauty was cleverly undercut by both the work’s unabashed sensuality and a precisely choreographed gawkiness. If the dancers glided and flowed, they also performed cartwheels and passages full of jerky, sometimes comedic repetitiveness.
The dancers seemed to forever seek some sort of balance, moving between desire and its fulfilment, the movement style keeping the work on the edge.
Drift was perhaps the weakest of the three pieces, easy to watch but lacking enough danger. The mood set by the strong soundtrack — ‘The Package’ by A Perfect Circle and ‘Eraser’ by Nine Inch Nails — demanded moves risky enough to match. Sandwiched as it was by Luxuria and DOG, both such fully realised pieces, we needed something slightly punchier in the middle; the focus of a short story contrasted with the lengthy narrative of a novel.
DOG was a complex work that played with pace and tone and imagery. Given the animalistic movements of the dancers — and the voiceover that sets the work in a quasi-Darwinian realm — the viewer is justified in relating it to a literal evolutionary flow. One could pick out the emergence of the hominoid and modern man from creatures that swim and crawl and struggle to get upright. But equally, the work allows itself to be interpreted in a more freewheeling style. You suspect that what’s going on, really, is the unspooling of thoughts from the mind of Israeli-born, London-based Schechter.
The work generated jangly, carefully coordinated chaos on stage, from which order and patterns emerged. The work melded sophisticated intent with raw, grungy power — so what we were witnessing could, as well, be the evolution of something more abstract like a society or even an idea.
A small note, however, on audience etiquette. While viewers have every right to vote with their feet if they don’t like the piece, this is something that should be exercised in the intervals and pauses provided; when a few left just minutes before the last piece ended, it was distracting for both the performers and the remaining audience.
Still, overall, contemporary dance seems to be seeking and finding engaged audiences in Chennai, with recent performances by Akram Khan and now the Scottish Dance Theatre, both playing to well-packed auditoriums.
(The performance was s in Chennai and Bangalore are presented by The Hindu in association with The British Council and the Scottish Government, and part of the Impulse season of U.K. contemporary dance)