The Scottish Dance Theatre was outstanding for its physical skill, energy and commitment

The Hindu sponsored the Scottish Dance Theatre, the second programme of the British Council’s season of contemporary dance, Impulse. It was a good decision to start with Drift, the least abstract and most easily ‘read’ of the three dances.

The duet examined intimacy in waves of seamless movements, in fluid postures that mirrored and echoed each other. Their deceptive slackness belied the tremendous physical control that was necessary. They went into amazing free falls, collaborating with gravity in their effortless drops to the floor or into each other. Graceful movements flowing beautifully into each other suggested harmony, whereas confrontation and tension between the couple emerged in their tentative spiky attempts at connecting with each other. The jaggedness in their relationship was also apparent in facial expressions and the edgy insistent music. Antithesis was also suggested in the contrast between the bodies, Natalie Trewinnard’s softness opposed to Matthew Robinson’s taut muscularity.

James Wilton’s choreography passionately expressed its deeply emotional content, of tender love, violent conflict or desolate isolation, making Drift poignantly resonant.

Choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s Dog piece was far more abstract and challenging as sought to express Darwinian theory in a wild and witty collage of indeterminate gene-jerked species, yanked along the evolutionary chain.

A lone male dancer crouched on all fours, a token nod to its title. But the progressive climb from primeval sludge “takes too long”, so the narrative leap-frogged to the top of the heap. If the culmination of the evolutionary spiral is the human race, then the view is equally dismal: a group of identical individuals, in androgynously regulation tunics, all going through the same meaningless, often violently forceful and chaotic moves.

Various life forms were suggested by crawling, creeping, loping or biped movements but the jangle of aggressive disjointedness marked mice and men in their frenetic attempts at survival. The raw disjuncture of most of the episodes was counter-pointed by the brief lyricism of couples exploring connectedness, coming together in bonding and cooperation.

The climax of the piece transformed the ‘dog’ we first saw, into a human being standing alone in a spotlight, arm raised in a gesture that could be interpreted as triumphant, or indicating that man’s climb uphill is still a slippery slope, confirming the earlier declaration of the voiceover: “It’s not over yet”.

Luxuria was the most visually appealing, with fascinating groupings of the ten dancers. Male dancers appeared each with their own tics, emphasised by their shredded stark outfits. Women floated forth in voluminous white ball gowns, the atmospheric mist adding to a trance-like quality. But any suggestion of elegance of a bygone era was soon dispelled as the hooped skirts eliminated, enveloped or concealed the men. The overtly sexual and the romantic melded in a series of couplings. The lifts that thrust dancers into space and the falling into each other spelled out complicated dynamics of human relationships. Liv Lorent’s choreography of intentional unsteadiness was particularly interesting: when women stood shakily on one foot, it suggested the insecurity of being alone; or how unstable interdependence can be when both the lifter and the lifted deliberately wavered.

Some episodes suggested satirical glances at certain dance genres: the ball gowns mocked fin de siecle elegance but indicated that a lot more went on under those generous skirts. South American-style dance halls were parodied with couples gyrating in steamy embraces to raunchy rhythms.

While Dog pulsated with quirky force, the physical control required for the gymnastic and acrobatic sequences in Luxuria was no less demanding. The energy, outstanding physical skill and control, commitment and cohesion of the dancers make SDT one of the most exciting contemporary dance groups.