An Invitation


Purging Suite #1


For Now, I am...


Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

The further into DIG (Dance International Glasgow) we go, the more elusive any cut and dried definition of "what is dance" becomes. Hurrah to that, especially when, as in Jo Fong's An Invitation, we're drawn into the physical and intellectual processes of dance-making and performing.

It begins, mischievously, with Fong and her accomplices planted in among us. We're on two lines of facing chairs, expecting the central "runway" to fill up with moving bodies. Instead questions like "Have you been working together long?" - often asked of dancers - are directed at audience members who've been chatting away.

This role-reversal kicks off a very clever, very funny plunge into the mechanics of movement and choreographic progressions. Different dancers emerge from among us to doodle out ideas with their bodies, audibly musing on the resulting steps as they go. Sometimes it's the pain when a sudden lunge stretches too far, sometimes it's a critique of a move that wasn't what was intended, and sometimes the murmurings confide pre-performance jangling nerves. Without leaving our seats, we joined in the dance. What style was it? Radical-witty and entertainingly thought-provoking.

Purging Suite #1 was a short - maybe 20 minutes? - burst of brooding intensity. Dancer Tamsyn Russell, in long black robes, entered into Sarah Foster-Sproull's visualisation of transformation and rebirth with dramatic conviction. She broke loose from the ties that anchored her to the stage, used her hair as a veil over her face until a new self could peep through, spooled out yards of black tape as if her inner darkness - old sins or latent demons? - were being purged away. Intriguing, but perhaps more of a first step than a full journey.

It's 18 years since a car accident changed Marc Brew's life, his body and his burgeoning career as a classical ballet dancer. He left hospital in a wheelchair, altered but still fierce in his determination to be a maker of dance - his global success as a performer, director and choreographer is witness to his drive, his talent. This new solo, For Now, I am... is an unflinching statement of the self he wakes up with every day. It's not the chipper Marc Brew that we know from foyers and first nights. This is a (literally) naked, graphically exposed man who confronts his disability and, in coming to terms with it, creates a work of harrowing beauty and luminous, life-affirming spirit.

Thanks to a superb use of lighting and projections, the piece has a compelling element of art installation that turns the entire white floor-cloth into a monochromatic landscape, or increasingly into a seascape where surging waves are echoed on the soundscore. When Brew - whose upper body retains a lyrically articulate grace - slowly emerges from these birthing-ripples, it's in a slow awakening of fingers, wrists, elbow joints. A gradual flexing and testing, where Brew's dawning awareness is further expressed through Claire McCue's new composition for piano and cello - the latter is like his own, inner voice.

He rocks and ratchets, coiling the cloth round his lower (immobile) limbs until he looks like a merman, a mythic creature of air and water who nonetheless can't walk on land. Finally, Brew pushes himself further and is hoist, feet first, like a piece of meat, offering us the explicit truth of his body. Not asking for pity, but - as his arms take flight, like wings - owning his reality and his ability to transcend it. Words like "brave" and "risk-taking" are eclipsed by Brew's performance, which comes to Zoo Southside, Edinburgh from August 22-30.