BEFORE any voice could even think of singing, there were countless hours of listening. Because Polish ensemble Song of the Goat, already well-known (and well-loved) on the Fringe, do not go lightly into another country's musical culture: there is too much care and regard for the talismanic forces that cling to tradition and heritage.
So when this choir of 12 voices - thrillingly individual in solos, but richly balanced in unison - came together in a song-cycle inspired by the Gaelic language and archival recordings of old Scottish music, what emerged was an anthem to times that have fallen silent.
Six men - in almost-archaic monastic costume - six women in elegant modern columns of ivory materials, bridged time and awakened echoes. Spun harmonies that melted into dissonances with hints of a pibroch wail, or chanter drone. Caught harsh accents of past hardship or lilting notes of loving kinship.
An intuitive body language charactered the songs - nodding heads for the gossip of a waukin' song, shared communion of outreached hands when bitter parting, through death or diapora, was in the air. Whether you have Gaelic on your tongue or not, this glorious event in a potent cathedral setting was a rite of recognition: song is in our heart and spirit, whether we voice it, or just listen.
Made in Ilva
THE title of this solo show used to be the proud slogan for a huge steel plant in Southern Italy. But as Nicola Pianzola puts his own body through the mill of an unrelentingly physical performance, he voices the appalling human cost of production there: injuries, illnesses, even deaths. Victims' testimonies filter through his anguished descent into a near-hallucinatory despair as he flagellates the air with repeated cries of "work" or "brutalisation".
But it's the intensity of what matches this rhythmic litany that creates a sense of machines devouring men. A metal frame which started off as a high stool is toppled into becoming both cage and workplace where Pianzola is no better than a slave, pounding his palms against the steel, battering the floor with it, drumming and percussing in sweat-drenched misery. Projections on the floor, dramatic lighting, music - they all add to the sense of a particular, gut-wrenching situation in Ilva.
But when Pianzola elevates a welding mask, creating a shrine to industry, this blistering, savage tour-de-force could be about any community where the environment and ordinary lives are polluted by government hypocrisy and economic forces.
The Cut Tuk Show & Wonders of the Universe
TUCKED in among the more strictly dance works at this venue is a double bill of wacky physicality and odd-ball movement styles. In The Cut Tuk Show (choreographed by Martina Cortelazz), Francesca Botti is the chef you feel shouldn't be allowed near sharp objects - like kitchen knives - even though she slices and dices with enviable dexterity. Until the jiggly-jitters take over and she goes into paroxysms of high kicks and shimmy-shakes while still doing edible things with a marinated chicken.
Professor Brian Cox might be moved to declare 'a-m-a-a-zing' - but he's providing a distinctive voiceover for a dance-dash through space and time called Wonders of the Universe. Three nerdy guys come on-stage and tie themselves in wriggly knots as they re-enact the evolution of the universe, earth and mankind in a mere 20 minutes of acrobatic goofing around. It's frantic and every twitch, snuggle, balance and hook-up is superbly orchestrated by choreographer Karol Cysewski, who is joined by Gwyn Emberton and Andrew Hawkins in exploding the myth that you need big budgets to represent the Big Bang.