Ensemble, CCA Glasgow

Hyperspace/Dancer of the Year, Tramway

Mary Brennan


THREE performances at DIG (Dance International Glasgow) last week reflected on physicality, albeit in significantly different ways.

Ensemble, co-directed by Robbie Synge and Lucy Boyes, brought together five dancers (including themselves) with an age range of 32 to 75 and varying levels of ability and experience.

What a fascinating, life-affirming event it proved: full of supportive camaraderie, quirks of mischief and moments of prowess in which the older dancers - Judy Adams, Angus Balbernie and Christine Thynne - were fully present, delivering mettlesome solos or as part of tightly ordered group sequences.

A hefty sumo-style tussle with Synge showed Balbernie was - as ever - up for a challenge while Adams and Thynne were simply inspirational in terms of nimble footwork and bright energy. Age need not wither creativity - Ensemble’s cross-generational meeting of minds and bodies made that point joyously.

Two solos at Tramway saw James Batchelor (Australia) and Trajal Harrell (US) using their bodies as a vehicle for concepts of metaphysical existence and/or personal identity. Batchelor’s HYPERSPACE was an odyssey in exquisitely controlled movement that saw his naked, tattoo’d torso uncurl and stretch out like a universe ready to be mapped.

As his long hands paddled the air, or apprehended his face, met with skin, explored musculature, his painted fingertips twinkled, yes! like stars... Bit by bit, as the soundscore thrummed and swooshed, he flexed and stretched - never hurried, always with a focussed precision as if time, as well as lithe flexibility, was being measured.

For Trajal Harrell being named Dancer of the Year 2018 (in Tanz magazine) led to the making of this intensely personal - often openly emotional - solo in which various ‘selves’ come onto the red carpet and perform. Harrell adopts different costumes - various frocks and skirts - that echo previous choreographies and the cultural influences that informed them.

Finally, however, he gave us himself: revealed the intense and talented dancer behind all the masks - funny, spiritual, deeply affecting.