Off Kilter, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

The new year springs to life
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The Independent Culture

Off Kilter is a gleeful celebration of dance in Scotland, from highland to breakdance. It makes an immensely likeable New Year show, with a world premiere from Mark Morris as the icing on its tartan-wrapped cake.

Morris's Cease Your Funning is the production's great coup: a new work from one of the world's leading choreographers. Morris uses Beethoven's arrangement of Scottish songs, his touch flirtatiously light. Claudia McPherson scampers like a sylph around Kanji Segawa and William Smith III. Then she stands still, one arm boldly raised: Caledonia stern and wild.

In one springy sequence, the two men lift each other, with McPherson ducking between them. The relationships keep shifting. There's some wonderful mime in "Sally in Our Alley". A curl of the wrists suggests empty pockets, while the men clutch their hearts with clawed hands, making the gesture more than conventional.

Cease Your Funning is delicate but powerful. Morris's musical timing is as good as ever; dancers dash on from the wings, changing the whole tone as they arrive right on the note. Striking poses, then falling out of them, the dancers go from comedy to sharp edges.

Created as part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations, Off Kilter is exuberant, designed to be a good time. Davina Givens opens the evening with highland dancing, her legs strong and sharp. Aerialist Jennifer Patterson climbs out of a silk cocoon, then slides up and down her silk trapeze.

Phyllis Byrne dresses the Indian classical dancers of Ihayami in traditional costume with pleated tartan sashes, but this long number wore thin. Paisley Patter, a premiere from Ashley Page, was framed by archive photographs of Scottish urban life. Page's dances are light and brisk, though Ivor Cutler's songs are tiresomely whimsical.

I loved Frank McConnell's Innit Innat – No?, a juicy contemporary dance with bursts of breakdance. The adorable accordionist Martin Green, for some reason wearing a dress, wandered on stage to cast long-suffering glances at the audience. McConnell's dancers are upfront but relaxed, with Lisa Sinclair outstanding.

Throughout, the show celebrates Scottishness without falling into sentimentality or maudlin aggression. Gemmill's Goal marks one of Scottish football's great moments, choreographed by Andrew Howitt to the original sports commentary. Steinvor Palsson's Scots Wi Hay is a ceilidh with quarrelling. Two couples dance through four decades of pop music, arguing and showing off. The upper bodies are stroppy, but the feet are quick and neat.

The evening's music was a mix of traditional folk, DJ sets, touches of classical, with all the musicians coming together for the finale. Everyone joins in, before inviting the audience onstage to join the Scottish country dancing.

Touring to 27 January (Offkilter.org.uk)

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