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Choreography is key as local talents join with global stars

An Aladdin's Cave of dancing gems - contemporary, traditional, camp and even haka among them - is just a step away from the main thoroughfare on Edinburgh's Grassmarket.

MAGICAL MOMENTS: From tales of love and loss to cheeky burlesque teasers, the Dance Base team have a typically diverse selection of offering for this year's Fringe. Picture: Maria Falconer
MAGICAL MOMENTS: From tales of love and loss to cheeky burlesque teasers, the Dance Base team have a typically diverse selection of offering for this year's Fringe. Picture: Maria Falconer

And the "open sesame" that will make the entire programme available to you? Well that can only be "Dance Base", the national dance agency that year on year packs its entire award-winning home with a savvy mix of the tried and truly popular alongside the unknown, the unusual and the off-the-wall wild cards.

If artistic director Morag Deyes sums up the Edinburgh Fringe as "a vibrant, outrageous, unpredictable, sexy and hilarious thing" then her own programme is all that in miniature. Moreover you can see most of it in a day, if you fetch up for the early Green Tea and Zen Baka that performance artist David WW Johnstone intends to serve up on the venue's roof garden, and just go with the flow of events through to Salon Mika at 9pm. Deyes herself reckons that any day that ends with this New Zealand king of flamboyant, devilishly dark cabaret is a day well spent - and those who remember Mika from other times, where haka and traditional pom-pom twirlings would give way to moments of superb burlesque or simple, heart-felt songs of love and loss, would doubtless raise a glass to that thought.

But inbetween the green tea and the cabaret, there is a spectrum of dance and performance styles that is unrivalled by any other Fringe venue. Deyes knows that Dance Base hovers on the margins, as far as location goes. Indeed, if you look at the maps in the Fringe brochure, number 22 - Dance Base - is right on the edge of the inner 'city centre' circle.

"We have to make sure that if people come to us, then they'll want to stay and be tempted by what we have on offer. But also - and this goes for the dancers too - just enjoy the Dance Base vibe. Because we feel that dance is a really special experience and whether you're watching, or performing, we want to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that adds to that, and supports it."

Maybe some of Scottish Ballet's personnel felt that when the company was on the Edinburgh Festival programme last year with Dance Odysseys, because this year one of the Dance Base double bills features new works by four of them: Eve Mutso, Hope Muir, Constant Vigier and Sophie Laplane.

"How exciting is that?" says Deyes who promptly admits she's not sure who is going to be dancing, or what exactly. "I think what we're seeing - or are going to see - is the result of Christopher Hampson (Scottish Ballet's director) really encouraging people to have a go at choreographing their own work. And I'm so happy that they feel that Dance Base is a place they can show that work to the public. For audiences, and for me, there's such a buzz in seeing these fabulous dancers up close - and in our spaces, that's an inevitability! I think it's going to be a huge adventure for all involved, but the fact that it's on our programme, and not anywhere else - am I allowed to be proud and loud about it?"

She's also energised by the fact that another studio has now morphed into a theatre which will be used by "our first ever guest artists/curators."

"It's quite a compliment that two companies from Taiwan wanted to stage their work at Dance Base, so we've made space for them, and yes it is a really useful source of income for us. We do need to be business-like if we want to keep supporting our home-grown artists, but audiences need to know that when they come through the doors at Dance Base, that those 'guest hires' have genuine quality. The two shows from Taiwan offer totally different aspects of that culture - you have tradition in Kurakuraw Dance Glass Bead, and modern dance in Eggs of Blessing. It's not something we've had before, but I think it will be fascinating."

Dublin-based company CoisCéam have been here before, as have Fishamble, but Deyes is gung-ho about bringing them back.

"Fishamble's Swing totally knocked them out of their seats in Broadway," she says, "so if it's good enough to wow Broadway..." It's a two-hander theatre piece about dancing and music and love that grabs audiences by heart and feet alike, with a feel-good factor that Deyes sees as a counterpoint to other parts of the programme that are rooted in more sombre, serious concerns.

CoisCéam's Missing is one of those pieces. "I think everyone will have their own ideas about who it is that is lost here - it could well be a child, because David (Bolger) has choreographed it as a duet for a man and a woman. But it's left open for your own imagination, your own thoughts. After I saw it in Dublin, I suddenly became aware of all these Missing Person fliers that were stuck on walls and lamposts. They'd been there when I'd walked past earlier, but I only noticed them after I'd seen Missing - and I think when dance can do that, make you more aware of what's around you, then you have to let as many people see it as possible. So of course we've brought it to Dance Base for the Fringe."

Full details of the national and international work in Dance Base programme are at www.dancebase.co.uk

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