Dance Base

This article is from 2007.

Base instinct

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Base Instinct Teenage boys, a footballer’s wife, a sprightly septuagenarian and a man in a dress. Kelly Apter talks to artistic director Morag Deyes about this year’s Dance Base programme

For the sixth year running, artistic director Morag Deyes has plundered the dance world for tasty morsels with only dancers and choreographers who pass the Deyes quality control test making it onto the programme. And the result is a full-bodied line-up born out of devotion for the artform.

‘Dance Base is made for dancers and this programme is made for dance,’ says Deyes. ‘It’s not made for commercial reasons, it’s made because I believe in the work.’ With each day split into four distinct packages, plus a hip hop show for families, it’s entirely possible to enter the building at 10.30am and leave 11 hours later full to the brim with dance.

Over 30 dancers will be performing at the Grassmarket venue this August, most of whom specialise in contemporary dance, but Deyes has also slipped some hip hop, Indian classical dance and martial arts into the schedule. ‘I believe that dance exists in all sorts of ways,’ she says. ‘And there’s too much out there for us to stick to one kind of dance. That’s why we’ve got these little lucky bags of different styles.’

Blending hip hop and traditional Scottish culture, HipHopScotch is a fun family show aimed at ages eight and over, performed by four b-boys, a DJ, a beatboxer and a piper, all under 18. ‘There’s something really funky and bright about them,’ says Deyes. ‘And their show is going to have a lot of energy.’

Billed as ‘fierce, funny, strange dance from the Northern Hemisphere’, Stratospheric opens with dDumy by Colette Sadler. Based in Glasgow, Sadler has choreographed a video for Belle and Sebastian, and is one of the few dancers to be awarded a Creative Scotland Award. ‘Colette is an extraordinary creature,’ says Deyes. ‘And dDumy constantly makes you re-think the way the body looks, what a body is and how it’s observed by other people. All these limbs contort into different places and it’s quite spooky and strange.’

Also on the bill is Forestillinger by Denmark’s Club Fisk. With black markers and an easel, two dancers attempt to illustrate their movement. But as Deyes discovered, it all gets a bit silly. ‘I saw Forestillinger in Denmark and I was sitting next to the director of the Prague Festival. By the end of it, we were laughing so much, tears were streaming down our faces; we both booked it immediately.’
Stratospheric continues with Vermiculus, a solo by Finnish dancer, Eeva Muilu. Set to music by Talking Heads, the work explores how we value ourselves. ‘I think Eeva is one of the best new choreographers in Europe. Vermiculus is very funny, but only for a while and then it becomes quite dark. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.’

Vermiculus will take turns about with Madame Bazié, a solo by Glasgow-based dancer, Natasha Gilmore. Having left her native London, when her African footballer husband was transferred to Scotland, Gilmore found they were both strangers in a strange land. ‘Natasha has worked with a lot of asylum seekers and it’s given her a new perspective,’ says Deyes. ‘I think she’s a charismatic performer, and this piece is self-effacing and funny.’

This poignant triple-bill features three duets which mark the passing of time. First up is Muscular Memory Lane by Matthew Hawkins and Diana Payne-Myers. Between them, the duo have danced with the Royal Ballet, Michael Clark, DV8 and more. And at the age of 49 and 79 respectively, Hawkins and Payne-Myers have more than a few memories in their bones. ‘Diana and Matthew are both beautifully trained,’ says Deyes. ‘And they’re two of the most eccentric dancers I know.’

In the middle comes Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie from Quebec, with a tender duet set to Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Gavin Bryars’ Mercury-nominated work. ‘Suddenly Last Winter is exquisite,’ says Deyes. ‘It’s about two men supporting each other, and there’s a huge amount of hope in the work, even though it’s quite a sad piece.’

The triple-bill closes with 13 by Yorkshire-based choreographer, Beth Cassani, in which a woman has taken the bold step of working with her own sons, aged 12 and 14. ‘I found myself interested in the area of male identity,’ explains Cassani. ‘And because of the age Jacob and Tom are, I felt an urge to capture that moment as they move from childhood to manhood. But as the piece developed, how they relate as brothers became more significant.’

With William Forsythe’s Impressing the Czar at this year’s International Festival, here’s a chance to see another of his works up close. Performed by the Curve Foundation, Duo is an intense duet that pushes technique to the limit. ‘I’m very proud that we’ve got the Curve Foundation in our programme,’ says Deyes. ‘And I like the idea that you can see a mini-clip of Forsythe at Dance Base.’

In ActionReaction, former Phoenix dancer, Martin Robinson and his Martial Dance company explore the idea that every action has an opposite reaction. ‘Martin has married martial arts and dance together so well,’ says Deyes. ‘He’s got the kind of sharpness you get with popping, locking and martial arts, but he’s also got the softness of contemporary dance.’

Completing the ‘Quantum’ line-up is Dark Matter by Shamita Roy. Inspired by the 90% of the universe you can feel but can’t see, Roy fuses contemporary dance with Bharatanatyam. ‘She takes classical Indian dance into contemporary in a very subtle way,’ says Deyes.

Featuring dancers from the US, Korea, Scotland and Denmark, this is a truly international quadruple bill. Stephen Pelton’s A Hundred Miles is set to the songs of Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Peter, Paul & Mary. And, intriguingly, Pelton performs his solo dressed as a woman. ‘Stephen’s very theatrical and fantastic at creating characters,’ says Deyes. ‘He’s not trying to be a woman. But knitted into the choreography are feminine moments.’

Somewhere Else by Korea’s Company Seo nearly ended up, well, somewhere else. ‘They originally came to me with a huge piece that we just couldn’t accommodate,’ explains Deyes. ‘So I gave them advice about other venues but they came back to me and said, “We’ve been to all the other venues and no one has a heart like yours.” Regular Dance Base teacher, Priya Shrikumar adds some Asian rhythms to the programme. ‘I love classical Indian dance – it takes you to a place of such fantasy,’ says Deyes. ‘And Priya has created a solo especially for Dance Base, pulling together different images of goddesses.’
Finally, Denmark’s Kitt Johnson is a dancer whose reputation is growing. ‘There’s something about her work which is very sculptural,’ says Deyes. ‘She’s got amazing style, and the lighting is key to what she does. I’ve tried to move away from quadruple bills, because they can test the audience a bit; but I was so excited to get Kitt that we turned this into a quadruple bill just to fit her in.’

Dance Base, Grassmarket, 0131 225 5525, 9–18 Aug (not 13), times vary, £8–£11 (£6–£7). Preview 8 Aug, £6.

Dance Base presents...

Four shows presenting a fresh variety of styles from around the world. 'Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007'.

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