Home Trip/Holy Smoke

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


On-stage, this double bill in Tramway's Dance International Glasgow (DIG) season has an off-the-wall look and feel that occasionally verges on the ridiculous. It's that twitch and shrug of humorous movement, however, that exposes underlying patterns of behaviour - family frictions, or a quest for spiritual enlightenment - with an immediacy beyond words.

Words do figure, nonetheless, in Low Air Urban Dance Theatre's Home Trip. Cooped up in a cramped little cube of a kitchen, a Lithuanian couple are waiting for the (adult) kids to come home for Father's birthday. The irritating upstairs neighbours - a couple of musicians/DJ's, perched atop the cube - are in full throttle. Sister Sledge is blasting out We Are Family, Ma and Pa are caught between pretending theirs is a happy family and sniping about kids who go away and only come back when they need something:we know all this from projected subtitles. Brother and sister stay silent, letting their bodies do the talking through a superbly expressive use of street dance styles. Slithering out from under the kitchen table, choreographers/performers Alrida Gudaite and Laurynas Zakevicius break out into elastic-limbed spurts of pent-up rebellion where hip hop power moves are like silent howls against parental attitudes. It's a sharp, vivid piece of dance-theatre, superbly delivered by all. When We Are Family is reprised, everyone's talking again - shucks!

Sonorous chantings, slow-solemn processionals, technicolour kaftans, outlandishly important head-dresses - Holy Smoke has them all. Tinkly little bells, various gongs and rattles too. Ultimate Dancer (aka Tramway Associate Artist, Louise Ahl) has also assembled four acolytes who enter wholeheartedly - and remarkably straight-faced - into the rituals she has devised. It takes a few minutes for audience chuckles to recognise the element of astutely-crafted spoof in Holy Smoke, but even as the smoke itself billows into oblivion, Ahl's exploration of shamanistic practices takes a serious turn. Quite literally, in an impressively sustained sequence of Dervish-like spinning that evokes the mood of trance-dance. This surrender into reverence leads into an amplified, orchestrated gong-ing where the sound comes like a physical onslaught from the stage, so intense your eardrums shiver. Ahl has always enjoyed walking the tight-rope between tongue-in-cheek send-up and genuine investigations into movement-centred actions and effects. Holy Smoke could do with some tightening here and there, but it does make you want to inhale more of her dance.