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Dancer review at Dance Base, Edinburgh – ‘cleverly crafted’

Dancer at Dancebase, Edinburgh. Photo: Sid Scott/See Imagine Define
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Challenging the dance world on many levels, whether it is the autumnal Saturday-night viewing pleasure of Strictly, the formal discipline of classical ballet or the athletic strictures of modern forms of dance, Ian Johnston and Gary Gardiner have created a piece that is as much a political statement as a visual performance.

Sporting formal penguin suits and with multiple cameras videoing their dance moves live, the pair throw shapes to a few of Johnston’s favourite tunes. The resulting images, projected on the back wall, show precision and versatility reflecting the different dance styles.

Gardiner talks to the audience, speaking for Johnston, whose physical disabilities make it difficult for him. A set-piece Q&A, with Johnston questioning Gardiner, leads to revelations of a professional dance career that, while hilarious and believable, are not, it turns out, based on fact, deepening the challenge of assumptions made about dance, performance and disability.

In a final, cleverly crafted touch that speaks of co-creator Adrian Howells, the audience is invited up on stage to celebrate with Johnston in dancing to his favourite song. Which, as it is video-recorded live, reverses the relationship between performers and audience members, reinforcing the realisation that any rule that defines performers (of any discipline) by ability or physical characteristic is artificial and a barrier to be broken down.

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Gently paced dance piece pricks the elitist bubble in performance