Close Up

Traverse, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan


In 2012, Manipulate introduced us to the febrile imaginings of Austria’s Editta Braun through the uncanny, elastic-boned dancers who dislocated norms in Luvos. Surely this degree of distorted reality was the province of animation? And yet here were flesh-and-blood women morphing into the stuff of cellular structures.

Planet Luvos featured in the 2014 Manipulate programme, and again, though we knew those snaking limbs belonged to female performers, our eyes deceived us into thinking they were alien-animal species from another world. Now, in the opening production of this year’s Manipulate, Braun’s concept of naked, faceless, unnervingly bendy beings comes closer to home. Or rather, they come alive in response to the fiercely idiosyncratic piano playing of AyseDeniz Gokcin.

Her grand piano sits, like an anchoring presence, amid a swirling landscape of what looks like grey gravel. It’s actually small cubes of foam that can conceal, but not abrade, the disembodied limbs that sprout and waggle out of its lone hillock. Soon, four lithe figures – naked but for a tiny thong and matching mop-top wigs – are cavorting and skittering as if the music is coursing through their veins. Chopin, Rachmaninov and motifs from the music of Thierry Zaboitzeff collate in AyseDeniz’s score, while her own playing, and physical attack at the keyboard, create a spectrum of moods that lure the hyperactive sprites ever nearer the source of the sound. Who or what are they? Their silver painted nails match those on AyseDeniz’s nimble fingertips, which suggests they belong to her subconscious – scary!

Across an hour, the initial impact dwindles, but the sheer stamina of the performers – and the spurt of ensemble bopping when Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean hits the keys – remains strangely fascinating.