A fusion of old and new is on the menu at this first celebratory presentation of Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary, which is touring throughout the season to four major Scottish venues. New, to begin with, is the debut of choreographer and Scottish Ballet artist-in-residence Sophie Laplane’s work Dextera; while, 45 years old but given a fresh treatment, is Kenneth MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations (1974).
In keeping with the title of the presentation as a whole, both works are set to scores of light, pre-existing music that emphasise a sense of fun and joie de vivre, although the humorous style of Laplane’s Mozart-scored work belies its weighted contemporary relevance.
The male dancers are dressed in functional grey uniforms, the women in tennis whites; the former don red gloves that catch the eye amid the monochrome colour palette, moving as though they are living creatures themselves and manipulating the pliant women as though they were clockwork models.
As the piece progresses, these gender norms break down, with characters adopting the other sex’s garb and a sense of raw, natural physicality emerging as uniforms are discarded. Laplane’s choreography is by turns visceral and humorous, with one character rushed across the stage on a tide of bodies and the body-slapping percussion of Slap Dance adding an ominous physicality.
The movement in MacMillan’s Scott Joplin-scored work is as idiosyncratic and contemporary as Laplane’s, although in this case any sense of gender fluidity is in Ian Spurling’s bright and inventively androgynous costumes, reinventing the ragtime era in Ziggy Stardust glam.
With the Scottish Ballet Orchestra playing on stage in this imaginary saloon, the invented dance contest welcomes soloists, duets, trios and a quartet on to the stage, culminating in the memorably grand and precise formation finale of Cataract Rag.