Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


Hooded figures, stumbling on-stage as if - like the Whiteout of the title - they're caught up in a blizzard, buffeted by unseen forces. Hooded figures, and we can't tell anything - age? race? gender? - beyond the agile technique that these six bodies share. Would we look at their dance differently if we knew the colour of their skin? In this new piece for Barrowland Ballet - premiered as part of Dance International Glasgow - choreographer/director Natasha Gilmore thrusts the spectre of racial prejudice centre-stage: drawing on her own experiences as a white woman married to a West African, but then deftly shaping the personal into a wider reflection on culture and identity, bi-racial relationships and the ways in which our society demonstrates "snow blindness" in accepting these.

These are complex, sensitive issues. But Gilmore's choreography astutely side-steps tub-thumping moralising, avoids narratives of reproach and focusses, in a series of vivid vignettes, on the human heart that beats in every body, regardless of skin colour. A central section, full of sudden magnetic attraction and playful flirtations, sees bi-racial couples click together with fabulously elastic athleticism as Luke Sutherland's soundscore swirls melodically, wistfully towards a point where unseen hands force lovers apart. A clever, witty music mix - everything from Madonna to reggae - flags up cultural reference points.The merry dance brings everyone together across the different rhythms and styles even as, in Sean Graham's solo of wretched, explosive frustrations, a certain riff unleashes feelings of isolation and exclusion. There is a remarkable, compelling emotive power to Gilmore's concept and choreography and when her own little boys dance on-screen with the company, their joyful energies are a beacon of optimism for a future beyond Whiteout.