Scottish Dance Theatre

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The Independent Culture

By the end of My House is Melting, the air is filled with little white feathers, colourful soap bubbles, exploded packets of gaudy ribbon, and even lumps of ice thrown to be caught in big glasses. You will gather that this is not the most serious of dances, but that it is an entertaining one.

By the end of My House is Melting, the air is filled with little white feathers, colourful soap bubbles, exploded packets of gaudy ribbon, and even lumps of ice thrown to be caught in big glasses. You will gather that this is not the most serious of dances, but that it is an entertaining one.

It forms the second half of a double bill given by Scottish Dance Theatre as its contribution to Dance Base's Edinburgh Fringe programmes. The company, from Dundee Rep theatre, is directed by Janet Smith, herself no mean choreographer. This time, however, she has chosen to present creations by two young choreographers who won this year's well-regarded Peter Darrell Awards. I know nothing of their backgrounds, but they have definitely deserved their chance.

Beth Cassani is the author of My House is Melting. It is structured as a series of episodes for a cast of four men and two women, described as a band of travelling players. Starting perhaps a little slowly, it soon builds up as the performers show aspects of their acts, sometimes with a wry look if things don't go as planned, but often with a big grin of delight at their successes.

Balancing tricks and animal imitations are among their repertoire, and one notably unusual number has a woman squeezed in underneath a table who manages accurately to echo the movements of the men on the table top. Cassani cleverly extends the dancers' skills to keep a sense of shared purpose and happy collaboration going among them.

The programme's other half, Self-Observation Without Judgement, seems to be a fantasy on the theme of loneliness. Victor Quijada's choreography has its eight dancers constantly reaching out to find, touch, explore or even attack one another.

That might sound limiting, but Quijada finds within it a great variety of mood, pace, positioning and partnerships that sustain interest throughout.

First one, then another of the cast is brought into dominance, providing a solo interest among the pairings that inevitably become the main action. And the dancers, working as a real team, produce an intense atmosphere that is entirely the opposite of what they achieve in the evening's other ballet.

Phyllis Byrne has costumed both works in attractive variants of everyday clothes, which show the dancers and their roles off to excellent advantage. She has also provided the object that ingeniously becomes table, door and other things besides in My House.

What I find less admirable is that the scores for both ballets are made up of a hotchpotch collection of music from disparate sources. This practice is now so frequent that it risks being seen as standard procedure; can't choreographers find a single score, or at least a single composer, to suit their purposes and enhance their ballets any more?

It is good, however, to see a Scottish company prominent in Scotland's great festival, and living up to the occasion with a presentation that shows originality, talent, a flare for theatricality and - not least importantly - a sense of fun.

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