Dance International Glasgow

Scottish Dance Theatre: Velvet Petal

Ultimate Dancer & Robbie Thomson: YAYAYA AYAYAY

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

A GROTTY single mattress gets thrown on the floor – passing occupants will aspire to hangin’ out and hookin’ up with the coolest free spirits. Metal clothes rails swish in and out, their grab-bag of charity-shop rejects lends itself to the dressing up (and mind-changing) that goes with deciding a “look” that is also an identity. When empty, those rails are like picture frames, just right for throwing poses and wanting to be looked at. Add in a crew of ten, elastic-limbed and lava-hot dancers and you have Velvet Petal, Fleur Darkin’s collage of urgent hormones, shifting gender roles and self-defining encounters that draw visual, and visceral, energy from the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 - 89). The fabulous and totally covetable soundscore, tagged as dance-punk, brings out the sexy slither and stomp in bodies that channel Mapplethorpe’s own notion that “beauty and the devil are the same thing”. And never more so than in Francesco Ferrari’s closing solo, stripped naked and sinuous with an erotic charge that Mapplethorpe would have loved.

Louise Ahl (Ultimate Dancer) challenges our perceptions by, firstly, leaving us in a total darkness that dislocates our ability to map time or space and then using glimmers of light and luminescing materials to persuade us that there are forces that exist there, even if we can’t see them. Thrummings and chanting – with Robbie Thomson’s soundscape abetting Ahl’s own vocalisings – hint at ancient rituals while Ahl’s own presence has something of the comic-book alien about it. Yes, it borders on the bizarre, but Ahl’s idiosyncratic ability to tease our imagination and heighten our awareness of what’s around us is seriously remarkable.