Velvet Petal: Bedroom review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘truly compelling’

Cast of Velvet Petal: Bedroom A scene from Velvet Petal: Bedroom
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Robert Mapplethorpe and the bohemian subcultures of 1970s’ New York inspire this transfixing piece – an extract from a full-length work – by Scottish Dance Theatre’s artistic director Fleur Darkin. To a vibrant sonic mix of punk and electro, the audience is invited to gaze upon androgynous dancing bodies who fashion themselves anew with thrift-store garments from a rail.

Gender norms are subverted and sculpted into otherness: women saunter in suits, men in silken drapery. There are references to Mapplethorpe’s portraits of the female bodybuilder Lisa Lyon when a dancer flexes and poses with her face covered and breasts exposed.

A single mattress (recalling Nan Goldin’s intimate, unsentimental photography) becomes a space on which homoerotic energies are both blatant and mystical – couples grapple and writhe into elastic contortions that transcend their seedily pedestrian setting.

Darkin’s dancers are marginal figures whose sartorial and choreographic shapeshifting reveals the vulnerability and creative strength of youth and difference. Antic energy is a survival mechanism and a glorious rebellion against conformity.

When the excellent Amy Hollinshead struts and jives through various incarnations, she’s the slightly melancholic third wheel at a sated menage-a-trois, a tough sashaying broad in blue jeans, a hip-twitching provocateur. A truly compelling piece, exquisitely performed.

Excellently intertextual and intricate section from a full-length work inspired by Mapplethorpe and his milieu