Fringe Dance

Plan B for Utopia

Dance Base

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FOUR STARS

Beauty of the Beast

Dance Base

FOUR STARS

Dreaming in Code

Zoo Southside

FOUR STARS

Danza del Caribe:Itara

Assembly Roxy

THREE STARS

Mary Brennan

When we first see Solene Weinachter and John Kendall, they’re building castles in the air – actually, a little toy town out of wooden blocks. In the course of Plan B for Utopia – the impressively fine debut piece from Joan Clevillé Dance – the blocks will fly asunder and the pipe-dreams will belly-flop as the differences between the two force cracks in their relationship. She wants to know how they can change the world for the better, but what about change on a personal level? In episodes that veer from daft comedy to touching despondency, through unforeseen misunderstandings compounded by obduracy, the pair acquire a better understanding of the give and take that is the essence of love and togetherness. Running in parallel, meanwhile, is an awareness of eco-issues: a cardboard container, wooden toys, an old cassette player are the old-style, lo-tech props that don’t cost the earth. Gosh, but this is a lovely piece to watch! Weinachter is a genius at loopy humour, her timing impeccable, while Kendall’s sincerity – as when he voices his forlorn desire for a family future – really reaches out without an iota of phoniness. Whether acting, speaking or dancing, they are delightfully well matched, even down to the very clothes they wear. The ending will melt you towards tears...

(until August 30)

Six men, six – at least – facets of male behaviour and an astutely choreographed conundrum about identity and the stereotypes we still attach to “being a man”. Anthony Missen, choreographer/performer and co-director of Company Chameleon uses the title – Beauty of the Beast – to establish the extremes that will fill the dance-floor with a compelling mix of swaggering aggression, macho camraderie, laddish humour and latent vulnerability. Missen lobs us a curve-ball for starters: is beauty more scary for men than violence? Three guys in tights are quietly engrossed in rehearsing ballet moves when three hoodie-wearing lunks muscle in and in a trice, arty activity is replaced by ganging up – but only after humiliating initiation rites, tinged with menace. The rowdy confrontational stance of lads on the lam, gets us laughing at their antics but then – in the brooding presence of Lee Clayden – comes the unnerving brutality of a grim-faced “top dog” who disciplines soft boys as harshly as he does his snarling Rottweilers. Even this alpha beast is not immune to self doubt, however, and Claydon’s closing solo – bare-torso’d, every limb a spasm of conflicting inner states until a smart suit masks the angst – is a physical howl against denying your true self by “manning up.” The dance seethes with visceral energy, the dancers switching seamlessly between moods with agile technique and expressive flair: Chameleon by name, and in the nature of their dynamic performance.

(until August 30)

2Faced Dance have become a hot ticket even before they’ve set foot on the Fringe these days. Dreaming in Code will more than satisfy loyal fans, and bring them a host of new ones. The first half – Milk Night, choreographed by Eddie Kay (of Frantic Assembly) – uses the premise of a men-only camping trip to explore how five lads cope without any contact with women. Kay not only sets the group movement challenges, he asks them to speak: voicing personal anecdotes that edge well beyond the “missing you” mindset that extends to female family and girlfriends. No women means confusion in the sexual development and emotional make-up of the group, and no matter how Kay’s flurries of buoyant, often humorous, dance highlight the prowess of individuals and the rapport within the group what builds really tellingly is how the implications of even a casual touch unsettle everyone. The damage done by this enforced deprivation is then carried over into Tamsin Fitzgerald’s Lucid Grounds where reflective panels distort the (self) image of the men who have swapped casual gear for striking dramatic Matrix-style great coats. Now, they move with the fluid cohesion of a well-established pack bonded by a shared, if unspoken, experience. At times the pace accelerated with bodies connecting or ricocheting away at speed before lulling into a different regime of intense physical control, one where slower motion revealed just how honed and silkily assured the company technique is. It is a real whammy of artistic ambition, carried off with style by a dream team of dancers.

(until August 30)

Itara – it translates as “burning desire” – shoe-horns the cultures of the Caribbean into an hour-long explosion of dance that sees lissome bodies shimmying, quivering and gyrating to the pounding rhythms of a live, six piece band. Drawing on the myths and movements of West Africa, Haiti and Jamaica, this compilation/ collage goes straight to the influences that still thrum in the psyche of Cuba. Danza del Caribe, from Santiago de Cuba, embrace that heritage and send it rippling like electric currents from top to toe of the company’s nine fabulous dancers. What takes away from the impact is the staging. Space is squeezed, the lighting doesn’t really illuminate the dance, while the musicians sadly remain in the shadows. A pity – there’s a lot of talent bursting at the seams of the Roxy stage.

(until August 31)