Dance International Glasgow (DIG) 2017 opened last Friday, runs through to 21 May and features a diverse mix ranging from a Siobhan Davies Dance performance installation (astringent++ I’d say) at Tramway, through to outdoor and other events across the city such as Collective Endeavours’ improvised Music/Dance evening at Govanhill Baths – sounds jolly.
Scottish Ballet’s contribution to its home town festival is to feature its Under the Skin Digital Season as an interesting Tramway pop-up installation (more details) and to commission the very contemporary and bold Ivgi & Greben (Uri Ivgi and Johan Greben) to create a brand new piece for the 700-seat Tramway 1 theatre. Before they did anything, I&G visited the very fixed space, with its immovable intruding brick piers and lack of fly-tower, and the new work can be thought of as rather site-specific. But I hope that there is a life beyond the first 2 planned performances – providing the 5000 pairs of old shoes the work needs can be kept in non-smelly store of course…
Each Other is the innocent-sounding title of a work about the important things in society – how we structure ourselves, the clans we form, our divisions and our ability to work together as families and nations, sometimes for good and sometimes not. Ie it’s not small beer and as nationalism becomes more prominent the Israeli/Dutch pair graphically show us how ordinary lives are touched and crushed by difference. And all those 5000 shoes, trainers and everyday footwear, become the ciphers for Man’s ideas, ownership of territory and the souls of the departed. At first the shoes are randomly scattered across the entire floor of the stage and 2 dancers are wandering though them – rather lost and, like us, quizzical. Three female dancers behave like young girls in a playground, doing handstands against the wall and throughout the performance you see the movement of children as well as grownups. As more dancers join the stage, 17 in total, the shoes are moved into piles, into lines, into a huge barricade separating warring factions, possibly a gas chamber and a performance space – you can read so much into it. The background soundscape of Tom Parkinson is for the most part tribal and based on the thrumming of shoes being thrown and dropped. There is some respite at one point in the 60-minute show as piano notes starkly come to the fore.
The movement is a long way from ballet – it’s agile and stretched, but also powerful and yet twisting and soft. It’s the movement of narrative and vernacular rather than alien snappiness that might thrill but says nothing. The piles of shoes rather remind me of the impact of Pina Bausch’s intriguing full-stage sets, and the use of lots of dancers, and those from the lower ranks in the company, picks up on what I’ve noticed in some of Crystal Pite’s work. At last we are seeing contemporary choreographers understanding you can do amazing things with a corps de ballet rather than marching in to a company and only wanting to work with principals and a few rapidly rising stars. As if to make the point Each Other ends with a long solo by artist Kayla-Maree Tarantolo who only joined the company last year. It’s a touching and sometimes funny display, as a girl/young woman looks for more than the pain and mayhem we’ve witnessed. Does it end with her life extinguished? We don’t know, but the point’s been made.
All up, Each Other is a terrific acquisition for the company and a major piece of work by Ivgi & Greben. It makes you reflect and think – and it deserves to be seen much more widely. It would be a great piece to see at the Edinburgh Festival that’s for sure.