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Stars are inspirational at first Scots showcase

It's only now, in that "morning after" mood of looking back at four days of a full-on dance showcase that the longer-term impact of British Dance Edition 2014 (BDE) starts taking shape.

ILLUMINATE: Akram Khan's iTMOI confidently took on some difficult themes.
ILLUMINATE: Akram Khan's iTMOI confidently took on some difficult themes.

The public saw some of the BDE's "heavy-hitters" on-stage at the Edinburgh King's as Akram Khan, Hofesh Shechter and our own Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) delivered the kind of work that surely encourages young companies (and audiences) to push beyond comfort zones.

Khan's iTMOi (in the mind of igor), Shechter's Sun and SDT's Winter Again were thrillingly confident statements of how dance can tackle chewy themes and provocative issues with a degree of theatricality that illuminates as well as entertains.

If this is the stuff of foreign touring - and all three companies have carved out a strong following abroad as well as in the UK - then, beyond the public gaze, there were pieces of work seen only by the hundreds of visiting delegates. This was the "trade fair" aspect of BDE: producers and programmers from all over the world gathered in one place (or two really, as Edinburgh and Glasgow shared the hosting of this first BDE in Scotland) to network and perhaps book some of what they saw.

For some performers this can be a real career watershed moment, for others harshly exposing. The curating team had the responsibility of sourcing work from all of the UK, and some of the young companies - Mysteryskin, Deborah Light, Theo Clinkard - were caught at a formative stage of development, rather than in full possession of a persuasively fashioned piece. For them, the hope would be that British agencies would foster and mentor their initiatives and that they will shine in Cardiff in 2016.

If I had a venue to programme, or a budget to spend, I'd happily book Liz Aggiss, Colin Poole and Aakash Odedra for starters. Aggiss, flashing her thighs as she shimmies and struts and tells us she is now 60, is one of those glorious wild cards who grounds her eccentricities in a bedrock of serious cultural and social information - all astutely accrued over years of creating, performing and teaching.

Her show, Liz Aggiss is The English Channel, merrily deploys morsels of that history, but the humour twists into observations on ageing, mortality and the conventions of how we behave in childhood or in later life.

"Do I please you or do I please myself?" is the emerging connection, as relevant to everyday life as it is to performing. Aggiss has never dodged away from putting herself, under scrutiny and the gaze of others, and this solo performance gets its claws into you - you laugh at the time, but afterwards you realise how moving and honest it was.

Colin Poole's Joyride is a provocation that has complacent prejudices about race, class, status, beliefs and human rights in its sights. Poole performs naked throughout, using his lithe muscularity and fierce intellect to conjure up images that home in on savage truths. We see him, like a dog on all fours, worrying at his discarded clothing suggestive of the brutal humil-iations of slavery or torture and the imperial superiority of the "them and us" heirarchy.

Aakash Odedra's Murmur is a solo confrontation with the demons of his dyslexia.

Projections on a dividing scrim animate his confusion and frustration when engulfed by written text.

But when he breaks free, whirling into Kathak-inflected dance, he finds a language where he is not only articulate, but inspired - one of the most affecting and uplifting showings at BDE.

Other highlights by companies new to me included Southpaw's liquid delivery of break-dance moves in Man on a Mission, while Maiden Voyage's deftly peeling away time shifts at a school reunion in Fragile Ghosts, Mild Acquaintances was a stylishly nuanced pairing with the barnstorming glory of Noces from the National Dance Company Wales.

Robbie Synge, Colette Sadler, Marc Brew and the rest of the Scottish contingent did us proud in a programme that was a brave new beginning for dance-making in the UK and beyond.

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