Ali and Alpo (4 stars)

This article is from 2019

Ali and Alpo

An exquisite duet of Finnish contemporary dance and Iraqi music

Soon after Ali Alawad and Alpo Aaltokoski begin to perform, you realise you are in the presence of two exceptional artists.

Except we are not fully in the presence of one of them. Alawad is an asylum seeker from Iraq, and two weeks before the production's premiere in 2017, his application was rejected and he fled Finland to avoid forced repatriation. He appears here in video projection only, as in the original piece.

Despite the sorrowful distance this creates between the two men, there is an unbreakable thread linking their performances – Aaltokoski dancing in freeform to Alawad's oud playing and song, weaving in shades of dabke and flamenco.

Alawad's oud (a kind of lute) sings like a human voice. Before and in between his pieces, an ominous synthesised soundtrack rumbles and the lighting falls harsh and blue. Aaltokoski clutches his head, spinning, marooned. At the first mournful ripples of the oud, the light changes to warm suntones and his body opens like a flower.

Dance culture tends to fetishise youth, and watching Ali and Alpo you realise what a shame that is. There is no substitute for the experience an older dancer such as Aaltokoski has absorbed into his body, which pours out like poetry.

Summerhall, until 25 Aug (not 19), 1.05pm, £10 (£8).

Ali and Alpo

  • 4 stars

Alpo Aaltokoski Company in association with From Start to Finnish A beautiful wordless dialogue between Iraqi traditional music and Finnish contemporary dance. The original aim of the work by oud lute virtuoso Ali Alawad and choreographer Alpo Aaltokoski was to contemplate the similarities and differences between two…