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May I Speak About Dance? review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘strange, funny and educational’

May I Speak About Dance at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Andreas Bergmann

A hefty gold dildo makes a star turn in choreographer Boaz Barkan’s eccentric lecture-performance May I Speak About Dance? The shimmering phallus in question is held against the crotch of an undulating dancer, who’s trussed up in a kimono and bathed in sickly green light, during Barkan’s enthusiastic recreation of a key moment in dance history: the 1968 premiere of Japanese choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata’s Revolt of the Flesh.

As Barkan explains, Tatsumi was the founder of butoh, a stylised and often grotesque form of dance-theatre partly inspired by renegade French artistic figures such as Genet and Artaud.

In his engagingly energetic and casual style, Barkan goes on to note how Yvonne Rainer’s spectacle-denying tenets underpinned another side of 1960s avant-gardism in New York. All of this – the rejection of technique versus transformative pageantry – forms part of the perennial debate about dance. Why move? Why watch? What should dance do? And how do we talk about a wordless form?

Abrupt and occasionally bewildering, this show may not convert the dance-averse to take up a Sadler’s Wells season ticket, but Barkan wittily sends up the form’s tendency towards po-faced pretentiousness while making a lively case for a fresh interrogation of our ideas about dance.
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Verdict
Strange, funny and educational lecture-performance about dance history and philosophy

Production

Production
May I Speak About Dance?
Venue
Summerhall
City
Edinburgh
Starts
August 2, 2018
Ends
August 18, 2018
Authors
Boaz Barkan
Director
Boaz Barkan
Technical
Daniel Norback (dramaturg)
Cast includes
Boaz Barkan, Jorgen Callesen
Producer
Boaz Barkan, Danish Arts Foundation
Running time
50mins