Watching the highly physical Scottish Dance Theatre perform at the American Dance Festival over the weekend was less edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding excitement and more watching, trance-like, as ribbons blow and tangle in the wind. They smoothed into the most skillful feats, like their gravity defying jumps, without any visible preparation, so that the dance was one seamless movement from the beginning to end. The most impressive feat was the graceful way they lifted and tossed each other about the stage without ever jerking or seeming affected by the violence. Dancers became extensions of each other so they were able to collide and roll and lift each other into impossible shapes in a perfect wave of motion. And everyone lifted everyone; men lifted women, women lifted men, men lifted men, always in one effortless move.
The company performed their US debuts of Lay Me Down Safe, choreographed by Kate Weare, and Dog by Hofesh Schecter. Lay Me Down Safe was a sensuous and sometimes alarming dance about relationships. Everyone was dressed in similar androgynous blue tunics, which had an equalizing and degendering effect. The artful portrayal of the complexities of sexuality, desire and feelings of loss used an appropriately varied soundtrack, from a jazzy Too Drunk to F*ck sung by Nouvelle Vague, to Leonard Cohen’s Sisters of Mercy.
Dog began with some comedy, as we were taken from a lone man on all fours through an evolutionary journey to a dance party while being reminded to stay seated with the repeated phrase “It’s not over yet.” Throughout the dance were alternating moments of peace and chaos, matched perfectly with the patterns of the music, also created by Schecter. Dog was created especially for SDT, and fully used the strengths of fluidity and individuality, but the bits that brought the 8 dancers close together moving in unison were particularly striking.
Drift, the duet choreographed by James Wilton, was the reason I was excited to see SDT this year; I had been awestruck by their performance at last year’s ADF Gala. It remains the highlight for me, from the tiny strip of light Artistic Director James MacGillivray dances in and around in the beginning, to the music The Package, by A Perfect Circle, and Eraser, by Nine Inch Nails, to the violent flights taken by MacGillivray and Natalie Trewinnard, this dance had the feel of truth and experience. The energy of the two dancers filled the auditorium. The dancers loved and fought violently, showing as much tenderness as volatility. As a pair, extensions of each other, they crossed the stage in a single movement.
Scottish Dance Theater is a unique company that explores the full range of humanity’s motion and emotion and recognizes no boundaries and I can’t wait to see them again.
Review and photos by Denise Cerniglia