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Fringe reviews: Dance

Black Grace

thrilling STUFF: Members of the highly athletic and impressive Black Grace in action.
thrilling STUFF: Members of the highly athletic and impressive Black Grace in action.

Black Grace

Assembly Roxy

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IF Neil Ieremia ever decides he wants to give up choreography, he might consider a career in stand-up comedy: he's affable, sharp and entertainingly droll with it. But then, just cast an eye over the members of his New Zealand company, Black Grace - five men and three women, all superbly honed, toned and totally focussed on clean lines, rhythm and precision - and you can see why Ieremia is happy to let their bodies speak his thoughts on tradition, memories, relationships and the politics of prejudice.

This particular programme is like a sampler of his creative flair and their technical finesse, with seven short pieces - some of them extracted from longer works - shoe-horned into an hour and a challengingly tight stage area. Minoi, with five bare-torsoed men fusing the time-honoured thrust and stamp of Samoan dance with Western contemporary energies, is an impressive calling card. Recent allegations that feckless migrants - his fellow islanders, for instance - are a drain on New Zealand's resources bring out the sophisticated mischief in him: he sets a traditional "slap dance" to Bach's Goldberg Variations and makes a clever mockery of the blanket denigration. Long before the end, you're wishing you could see one of the full-length pieces he's made since the mid-1990s. We'd welcome Black Grace back, and not just to the Fringe either.

Ends August 22

HAKA

Assembly Hall on the Mound

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EVEN those who have never seen New Zealand's rugby team the All Blacks hunkering down in enemy-scare mode, can get up to speed with the Haka this Fringe.

An unprecedented number of dance companies are referencing Maori culture and traditions on-stage, and none are doing it with a more spectacular flourish than the combined forces of two groups,Te Waka-Huia and Te Whanau-a-Apanui.

For most of their hour on-stage, the eleven men and eleven women keep to the entertaining format of delivering high-energy displays of tribal movement: the flittery hand gestures, body slapping, fixed stares and protruding tongues that are emblematic of the weaponry they brandish with throaty roars and stamping feet.

There is some audience participation where folk discover that there's more to the rhythmic swinging of pom-poms than you might think.

Two sections hint at directions it would be interesting to see more of: one is when company members line up to declare the Scottish clans they are themselves descended from, and the closing section, a salute to the 28th Maori Battalion who fought in the Second World War that is heart-felt in its sincerity.

In those moments, Haka means something closer to our own home, resonating with a history and connection it would be fascinating to hear more of, and even rub noses with, in greeting.

Ends Aug 23

Kurakuraw Dance Glass Bead

Dance Base

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THE story that unfolds in song, dance and exquisite design is surely the stuff Taiwanese grandmothers tell little ones who want to know why peacock-patterned glass beads are so precious that each one gets handed down as an heirloom. Grandmas will then tell of the love between a local maiden and the magnificent peacock (Kurakuraw) who carries her away, her tears - of joy in her marriage, sorrow at leaving home for ever - fall as exotic glass beads on the Paiwan village she leaves behind. Tjimur Dance Theatre deliver this picturesque narrative in a thoughtful mix of old and new. The male story-teller/singer, in ornate traditional dress, is an echo of the legend's original presentation but the two dancers, in minimal, ethereal white, give the uncluttered style of contemporary choreography a beguiling "other-worldly" quality. And because of this measured elegance, the occasional props, or the striking visual imagery they introduce, add a heart-beat of theatricality to a mystical-wistful romance.

Ends August 24

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