Enclosure 99 - Humans
Janis Claxton dance piece set in Edinburgh Zoo
This article is from 2011.
When Janis Claxton took up daily residence in an Edinburgh Zoo enclosure during the 2008 Fringe, she had no idea how much attention she and her fellow dancers would generate. ‘I was only doing it as an experiment,’ Claxton avows, ‘absolutely unaware it’d be considered a cool idea and get so much press.’
The Australian-born choreographer wound up with a hit on her hands and bagged a Herald Angel award. Part of the pleasure of Enclosure 44, as it was then called, was the people-watching between public and performers. Dance of a kind materialised inside the enclosure, in the form of improvisational movement games based on Claxton’s research. ‘The three main animal groups visitors tend to gravitate towards are birds, big cats and primates,’ she says, ‘but the most emotional connection is with monkeys and apes.’ This became Claxton’s springboard for a questioning yet playful study of human behaviour, social interaction and status.
Gifted and frequently outspoken, Claxton has become a real mover and shaker on the Scottish dance scene since relocating to Edinburgh from southwest England six years ago. She’s also established links with China, having spent seven of the past 24 months there teaching, making and presenting dance. For this revival of the Enclosure project (now identified as 99, a number derived from the maximum percentage of DNA some scientists claim humans and great apes share) Claxton is one of a ten-strong cast of Western and Chinese dancers, including three men. For two weeks straight they’ll be cooped up together seven hours a day, rain or shine, in what Claxton dubs ‘a creative exchange between two cultures.’ As with other zoo inhabitants, feeding these animals is not allowed. But there are bound to be plenty of photo opportunities.
Edinburgh Zoo, 314 0350, 14–29 Aug, 10am–6pm, free (Zoo admission £11–£15).