DIG: Giant (four stars)

Endling/Criocharan (three stars)

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

The double bill that opened Dance International Glasgow (DIG) at the weekend brought together many of the strands that will run throughout the festival’s October programme, with cultural diversity, traditions and identity coming to the fore in the mix of choreography, music and design.

In Giant - by Alesandra Seutin/Vocab Dance (Belgium/UK) - we’re led, by Seutin herself, into the far-reaching shadows of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. It’s as if she’s walking us back through history, through small spaces where photographs and text - written on the floor, so we scuff it underfoot - create a telling context for the dance-work that unfolds in the main area of Tramway 4. En route, we’ve encountered FayB in her bright cotton frock channelling the lively rhythms of Afrobeat - the next time we see her, she’s at bay among the dim-lit remnants of a town and her movements are wary, sometimes wrenching with fear, and yet building in defiance. Seutin, meanwhile, weaves in and out of the slatted-wood set, a compelling narrator/witness to the Hutus near- annihilation of their erstwhile compatriots, the Tutsis. It’s a stark,uncluttered yet poetic and affecting piece.

There are many visually striking moments in Rob Heaslip’s new work about the old Gaelic rituals of mourning, Endling/Criocharan. The soundscore, too, has real power as it ranges from eerie keening to the haunting refrain of Hovan, Hovan Gorry og O, by way of driving percussion. It is, like Heaslip’s choreography, a criss-crossing weave of ancient and modern, with Gaelic language and folklore offered up to an audience who are probably strangers to the customs that harbour mythic, feather-masked beings, seat the dead at the family table, upturn the newly vacated chair... If the content is opaque, the abilities of the performers - four dancers, three singers - are clear with pliant limbs and haunted voices conjuring up images of life overtaken by a dying fall.

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Endling/Criocharan - choreographed by Rob Heaslip

photo - Brian Hartley

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FayB in Giant - by Alesandra Seutin/Vocab Dance