Triple bill from the 'holy grail of dance schools'
This article is from 2012.
Although student showcases abound on the Fringe, not many make it to the International Festival. But then this is Juilliard, one of the world's most highly regarded dance schools. The expectations for this triple bill are therefore justifiably high, and indeed graciously met by 24 student dancers.
Their programme is cleverly conceived, luring you in with prettiness, building through a second act that simmers with primal sensuousness, and emerging into the final piece, as energetic as it is intriguing.
The Waldstein Sonata, a revival of José Limón's unfinished 1971 choreography to Beethoven's sonata of the same name, is a floating, leaping bundle of elegance, the dancers ebbing into fine duets, reclining in classical repose, or stretching their arms aloft almost as if they are crotchets and quavers tripping across the stage. A perfect symbiosis of dance and music is completed by Yuxi Qin's live piano performance.
The surreal images in Alexander Ekman's closing piece, Episode 31, are rendered more playful by an introductory video that shows the class taking to the New York streets to baffle unsuspecting pedestrians with spontaneous bursts of dance. There are flashes of David Lynch's weird Americana in the sporty monochrome costumes, the occasional jazz freeze that punctuates the frenetic energy, or the suited New Yorker who moves, dreamlike and slow round the edge of the stage, foil to the dance's speed.
But it is in the evening's second piece that the dancers really show what they are made of. Nacho Duato's Gnawa is nothing short of stunning. Taken from his longer work, Mediterrania, a meditation on the Moroccan, Jewish and Christian influences on Spain, Gnawa's red-blooded drumbeats and melodic flute get right under the skin of the performers, sending them snaking and rippling into multi-limbed creatures that breathe as one.
In Daphne Fernberger's solo she looks as natural as a falling leaf. Out of the primal darkness, familiar Spanish emblems begin to emerge, lifted Matador arms and flamenco tugs of the skirt. There's a certain resonance in seeing the building blocks of a culture's dance carefully sculpted in a student showcase. We certainly won't have seen the last of these dancers-in-progress.
Edinburgh Playhouse, run now ended.