Interview: Morag Deyes – 'We're here to entertain people – and make them think'

This article is from 2016

Interview: Morag Deyes – 'We're here to entertain people – and make them think'

Your Majesties / credit: Daniel Schmidt

Artistic director of Dance Base, Morag Deyes tells us what international goodies she has in store for us during this year's Fringe

'Where Scotland meets the world' says the slogan emblazoned across Edinburgh Airport. A tagline that could just as easily hang across the doors at Dance Base this August. For in one small venue, artistic director Morag Deyes has brought together dance makers and performers from over 15 different countries, plus a huge range of work grown on home turf.

Shows such as Your Majesties from Austria, inspired by Barack Obama's Nobel Prize-winning speech, which Deyes describes as 'one of the cleverest shows I've ever seen – absolute genius'. Or Hari Ho Gati Meri by Gauri Diwakar who, says Deyes, is 'the best classical Kathak dancer in Northern India right now'.

Then there's the 'fantastic biographical solo', Red, by Carl Knif, who grew up in a no-man's land between Sweden and Finland. Deyes also speaks of her pride at having Palestinian dance company El-Funoun, who have battled the odds to present their take on the socio-political landscape of their homeland in The Rooster.

With all this, and much more, in the Dance Base 2016 Fringe programme, is Deyes hoping people will get a sense of what's happening in the world?

'There's no point in saying we're here to educate audiences,' she says. 'No, we're here to entertain people – and make them think. Because the dance community produces work that reflects society, and the real grit of being a human being is coming through a lot at the moment.'

Over 30 dance works will be presented during the three weeks, and Deyes has strived to give the Dance Base programme a broad appeal. So whether you eat, sleep and breathe dance, or just fancy snacking on it between meals, she's found you something to savour.

'I'm not programming a dance festival where people are coming just to see dance,' says Deyes. 'I'm programming for a mix of dance experts and people who just want to fit a bit of dance in between a comedy gig and a piece of theatre. And if they want to tick the "dance" box on their Fringe list, I'd like them to see something at Dance Base – and I don't want it to be something that's too alienating.'

As well as its wide geographic spread, Deyes' choices also echo the diversity of today's dance scene. From contemporary to modern ballet, dance theatre to hip hop, work for children to comedic pieces, there's no shortage of styles. Was that important to her?

'Yes, it was really important because dance is about using the body to express yourself,' says Deyes. 'And you don't need to be en pointe or in a pair of tap shoes to do that, and there are ways of moving which don't necessarily need formal training.

'For example, the South African company that's bringing I Am Rhythm – their training happened on the streets of Soweto, learning from each other. And yet they've got more dance in their bodies than a quite a lot of dancers. So I think we need to be a bit more tolerant with our preconceptions of what dance is.'

Dance Base, 5–29 Aug (not 8, 15, 22). For full programme, see

Hari Ho Gati Meri

Gauri Diwakar Hari Ho Gati Meri – let my salvation be in the supreme. Acclaimed classical Indian kathak dancer Gauri Diwakar performs two interweaving dances that revolve around the eternal resonance of Krishna’s flute. Is the melody emerging out of his flute a message beckoning to eternal life or the fount of…

The Rooster and Partial Memory

  • 4 stars

El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe / SHAMS Association / Marhbtain Organization The Rooster is a Palestinian/Lebanese production influenced by thrilling Palestinian dabke folk dance, conveying the sociopolitical experience of the region through the character of Al-Deek, the rooster. The piece features music by El-Funoun…

I Am Rhythm

  • 4 stars

Online tickets end 2 hours before the performance starts - this does not mean the event is sold out and tickets may be available at the door.


Carl Knif Company In our everyday lives we often dance on a knife-edge. Carl Knif's solo Red is an intimate portrait of an individual struggling with an inner red alert. The performance is about extremes. You could call them emergencies of emotion. At times, it’s about life and death but mostly about life. This…

Your Majesties

Navaridas & Deutinger In the award-winning performance of Your Majesties, Navaridas and Deutinger reenact Barack Obama's Nobel lecture, held at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in 2009. Performer Alex Deutinger delivers the US President’s legendary speech while behind the audience, Marta Navaridas pulls the…