Dance Base and a Trilogy of new moves

This article is from 2009

New moves

Fresh steps are being taken to invigorate the Fringe dance programme. Kelly Apter meets those turning Dance Base and St Stephen’s Church into unmissable spaces for August

While the bewildering number of Fringe shows continues to rise unabated, knowing where to go is almost as important as what to see. A venue’s reputation rises and falls on the shows inside it, and in recent years dance fans have trotted happily off to Dance Base, Aurora Nova and, latterly, Zoo Southside safe in the knowledge that interesting movement awaits them.

The news that Aurora Nova was unable to take up its usual residence at St Stephen’s Church last year was a blow to many, and the 2008 Fringe felt a little empty without a trip to that oasis of calm in the New Town. So it’s with anticipatory relish that we welcome a new tenant to St Stephen’s, albeit one with a very different set of furniture.

The Arches is heading to Edinburgh from its Glasgow home for three weeks this August. Deciding to take over such a well-loved space wasn’t easy, however. ‘It started with us saying “oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful, but come on let’s not be silly”,’ says The Arches artistic director, Jackie Wylie. ‘But it just gradually built up into something which is now actually happening. It’s tricky, because people will be coming to that venue with a certain level of expectation from previous years, but it’s going to be very different.’

To start with, whereas Aurora Nova regularly programmed over a dozen international shows, Wylie has opted for just three (two dance, one theatre), all of which are home-grown. The theory being if you leave enough gaps, performers will come along and fill them. ‘It’s been a very deliberate decision to limit the programme because we want to create a space for spontaneity, to give artists an opportunity to try out unfinished ideas in front of a supportive audience. It’s getting back to what the Fringe was a few years ago.’

The focal point of The Arches programme will be Nic Green’s Trilogy, an epic performance lasting just under three hours. Backed by the Scottish Government’s Made in Scotland fund, the show will feature 100 volunteer female dancers, all of whom remove their clothes: hence the need for a venue all to themselves. ‘We have to approach that situation with absolute integrity,’ says Wylie. ‘And I think St Stephen’s is the perfect environment to allow those women to feel valued, rather than in that tense rolling programme structure that exists elsewhere at the Fringe.’

Meanwhile, over at Dance Base, artistic director Morag Deyes has gone for the ‘more is more’ approach. A radical shake-up of the venue’s Fringe programming has resulted in 19 shows at its Grassmarket headquarters and three more in an entirely new space at Out of the Blue. ‘We were inspired by the idea of taking a chance,’ explains Deyes. ‘So people can turn up every hour, on the hour and pay £5 to see some dance. It could change your life or it could be the worst thing you’ve ever seen; either way you’ll have something to talk about and you’ve only spent a fiver.’

The more technically elaborate shows at Out of the Blue Drill Hall – such as Fidget Feet’s spectacular aerial work, RAW – carry understandably higher ticket prices. But everyone on the Dance Base line-up has one thing in common: the Deyes seal of approval. Featuring solos, duets, and ensemble works, running the gamut of contemporary, hip hop, ballet, Indian and aerial dance, plus a healthy smattering of live music, the range of dance Deyes has procured this year is remarkable. Is there a set criteria for being offered a slot in her coveted Fringe programme?

‘They have to be clever but not smart-arsed,’ she says. ‘Sexy but not sleazy. They have to speak about humanity in some way without being sentimental, and be beautifully performed without necessarily being technically genius. If I see a piece that touches me, then that’s definitely the first stage in getting chosen for the programme.’

Dance Base, Grassmarket and Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Dalmeny Street, 0131 225 5525,; The Arches at St Stephen’s Church, St Stephen Street, 0141 565 1000,


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