Scottish Ballet Double Bill, Playhouse, Edinburgh
Sriyah, King's Theatre, Edinburgh

Jorma Elo's new dance for Scottish Ballet is a polyglot piece of childlike experiment and joy

Picture the sketchbook for one of those teeming medieval paintings by Hieronymous Bosch, where people with tails ride winged fish or crawl, supple as maggots, through gargantuan fruits, and birds hatch from between the buttocks of priests.

Now imagine it scaled down, bowdlerised and brought to life by some surreal love child of Joan Miro and Hanna-Barbera, and you'll have a fair idea of the visual world occupied by Jorma Elo's new dance for Scottish Ballet.

Watching Kings 2 Ends is to be immersed in a riot of doodles. Every impulse, every line, comes with a scribble attached. A woman floating through the air in her partner's arms grows sudden frog's legs. Another, facing the audience as she is lifted vertically into the air, allows her head to wobble as she is lowered again, like a raindrop running down a window.

The Finnish-born Elo got his first training in Graham and Cunningham technique, but soon switched to classical dance when he joined the Finnish National Opera Ballet School. After dancing with Cullberg Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater under Jiri Kylian, he moved to the States where he is now resident choreographer at Boston Ballet. He appears to be an acquisitive collector of less formal styles though, and one of the charms of Kings 2 Ends is the gurgling, childlike way he experiments with random accents and snatches of dance to develop a movement vocabulary that is polyglot almost to the point of incoherence.

Arabesques dart into tango-like ganchas, the outstretched leg hooking round a partner's body with a guilty start before returning to its blameless classical propriety. Chunks of the choreography look like someone trying to work out how to Vogue on a set of Ken and Barbie dolls. And one bizarre recurring trope has Sophie Martin bustling across stage like Fred Flintstone gamely trying to do Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" shuffle while trapped in a full-body cast.

At first glance the score is even more capricious than the movement, coupling Steve Reich's minimalist, rhythmically propulsive Double Sextet with Mozart's melodically profligate first Violin Concerto. But Elo binds them together, more or less, by showing each piece of music the choreographic image of the other. While Reich's two matched sextets of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and vibraphone intermesh and drive each other along, the dance is at its most random and sketchlike. Then, as Mozart scatters his dazzling tunes, the dancers turn into a kind of Heath Robinson perpetuum mobile, each a vital but eccentric gear in a mad machine.

One thing that Kings 2 Ends lacks is a sense of accumulating urgency. It doesn't really build to a climax, something that Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth, the second offering on Scottish Ballet's double bill, does better than anything since The Rite of Spring. Indeed, watching this Song was to be struck by how many MacMillan ballets are variations on the Rite – studies, whether tender, angry or elegiac, of the remorseless process by which innocence is sacrificed.

In this case, though, the main female figure, danced here by Sophie Martin, makes her journey towards death on her own terms, as much a voyage of discovery as a fate to be dreaded. This was Martin's second starring role of the evening, and a marathon in its own right, but any fatigue took its place alongside the grief, terror, acceptance and growing sense of wonder she embodied – a richly felt response to both MacMillan's choreography and Mahler's farewell to the world. There can be no higher compliment than the conviction that MacMillan would have loved to work with her.

Song of the Earth is a new acquisition for Scottish Ballet, and some of the dancers will need time to come to terms with it. Martina Forioso's rictus in the third song, "Of Youth", is both persistent and, with the Messenger of Death merely standing in the background, premature. And the whole cast began as if embarrassed by the cod Orientalism of some of the poses. Adam Blyde's Messenger of Death, however, grew into the role even as we watched. So slight that he appeared Puckish at first, he quickly set the right tone of modesty and quiet compassion, and, as the Song unfolded, his relationship to those he came for evolved, from onlooker, to companion, to partner.

Surupa Sen, Bijayini Satpathy and Pavithra Reddy are from Nityagram, a village in Bangalore devoted to dance. For them Odissi, perhaps the most ancient surviving classical dance style, comes as naturally as breathing. Odissi was first performed by temple girls called devadasis, or handmaids of god, and watching Sriyah is to be transported back to a time when sensuality was both technically demanding and undeniably holy. Only the most shrivelled puritan would not be stirred by Sen, as cowgirl Radha, recalling how the god Krishna had satisfied her and begging him with semaphoring eyes and rippling fingers to return.

In the show's climax, Vibhakta, Sen and Satpathy celebrate the union of Shiva and his female principle, she in gold bracelets and flowers, he in snakes and a garland of skulls. There is something dizzying about the way their bodies communicate across a spectrum of effects, from rock-solid, bell-ankled stamps to the most evanescent incense-like curl of a finger. Even on a damp night on a musty stage in a theatre in Edinburgh, it was like waking up in a lost temple where the statues had come to life.

Dance Choice

The Place in London opens its doors for 10 nights with Touch Wood. Differrent dancemakers, including Nigel Charnock and Vera Tussing, give a sneak peak at their current works-in-progress, all staged on a bare wooden floor. No two nights are the same, but all are likely to brim with exciting possibilities (to 9 Sep (020 7121 1100).

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence