Scottish Dance Theatre: Dreamers/TutuMucky review at the Place – ‘controlled fury’

Scottish Dance Theatre's TutuMucky at the Place, London. Photo: Brian Hartley. Scottish Dance Theatre's TutuMucky at the Place, London. Photo: Brian Hartley.
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Beneath dim and shuddering light figures move in shadow; heavily muscled male torsos unfurl like Rodin sculptures coming to life while music box ballerinas totter around the stage in a parody of first position. Both men and women wear black organza skirts streaked with dark red. The crackling, howling soundscape confirms the suspicion that Botis Seva’s new work, TutuMucky, is primed for the Apocalypse.

A sense of desperation and survival permeates the piece throughout. In a duet that exposes the gulf between the primitive and the civilised, a ballerina performs for a crouching, feral male in the classical manner while convulsed by inner spasms – Miranda infected by Caliban.

The work is powered by a controlled fury that reaches inside the dance to create ferociously agitated movement while the clanking, grinding sounds of alien machinery and a heavy sonic thud penetrates the bodies like artificial heartbeats. It rises to a tribal crescendo that is part fertility rite, part war dance. The final coda as the dancers face the audience in silence offers an accusatory release. Through these edgy juxtapositions Seva is promoting, or at least suggesting, the fallacy of civilisation. Powerful stuff.

Anton Lachky’s Dreamers which opens the evening could hardly be more different. Based on children’s games of tag and Simon Says it is a flirtatious, funny and frantic exploration of power and the addictive nature of control.

The gyratory gesticulations and facial tics are played at the speed of cartoon animations. In a series of conniption fits the dancers jerk and spin, whirl, contort and fling themselves around with reckless momentum as they take turns pulling invisible strings of the rest of the pack.

When a girl launches herself across the floor like a torpedo she is caught by the ankles just before detonating in the front row. Marionette imagery and gobbledegook push it into the realm of Absurd Theatre though the upthrusting breasts and grotesque gurning of at least one performer is tiresome and counter-productive.

 Scottish Dance Theatre pushes physicality to infinity and beyond in two wildly different works