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Edinburgh 2013: Dance Derby - An intelligent, touching show


Dance Derby is a tragedy, a look back at the desperation of the 1930s Depression. This dance marathon is a last chance for many of the couples in Kally Lloyd-Jones’ production for her own Company Chordelia and Scottish Opera. The jazz tunes are bright, but the competition is cruel.

Harry Ward’s exploitative MC pulls dancers forward for spotlit dances: the young couple dancing although she is pregnant, the professional marathon dancers who have won other contests, the older couple who have lost almost everything already.

Lloyd-Jones uses period steps to create vivid, character-driven dances. The professionals have extra pizzazz, with bright smiles and flashy footwork. The older couple’s gorgeous duet is the most moving: more formal than the young people’s dances, but full of tender melancholy.

They all gather round a table to eat, restlessly stamping out rhythms in a relentless dance. Soprano Nadine Livingston sings on stage, watching events unfold with increasing horror. She’s at her best in the lyrical songs, while the band, led by Kennedy Aitchison, play with gusto.

Lloyd-Jones focuses on the exploitation of the contest, the MC selling misery as entertainment. It makes the show too repetitive: long before the end, the dancers reach the point of staggering exhaustion, and then there’s nowhere else to go. Despite pacing issues, it’s an intelligent, touching show.

Until 26 August, then touring. Box office 0131 651 1421. Tour dates from chordelia.co.uk