Audiences don’t normally get to choose the length of a show, but we do with Into the Mountain, a site-sensitive walking performance initiated and choreographed by Simone Kenyon.
Taking place outdoors on Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms, it is inspired by the book The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, one of the 20th century’s greatest nature writers. Shepherd was a woman who understood that aiming for the highest point is not the only way to climb a mountain.
There are three routes of varying difficulty, ranging from five hours to all day. Everyone converges for a dance piece performed by five women who emerge out of the mist like ghostly retro versions of Shepherd herself. They remove their walking boots and socks and their feet fly across the heather and squelch sensuously into the mud as if they are trying to become part of the mountain itself.
On a rain-swept day, as Hanna Tuulikki’s haunting score – sung by the all-female Mountain Choir —floats across the mountain, it is shiver-down-the-spine eerie. If the sun were shining, I can imagine it might be mischievous and playful.
To some degree this attempt to make a performative intervention in this landscape is doomed. The mountain dwarfs the human. It makes everything look small. But just as Shepherd understood that getting to the top is not the point, by making us walk in Shepherd’s footsteps and listen and look hard, Kenyon ensures we see the Cairngorms through her eyes, in all its savage beauty.