Traverse, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan


Who knew that hip hop and urban street dance had such a sensitive side and could wow us with bravura power moves, but then hook us into relationship dramas or combine with other forces to evoke ancient Norwegian folk traditions? NordDance, a two day package of Nordic and Scottish work curated by Morag Deyes, artistic director of DanceBase, was a feast of such surprises.

Leahkit (Frikar Dance Company, Norway) brought two men together in what increasingly felt like a ritual bonding between past and present. As pine needles smoked aromatically in an open flame, Hallgrim Hansegard, in black biker-leathers, melded the snap of nimble folk dance with a slithering, sinuous flow of acrobatic urban moves. Underpinning his transformations from 21st century man to bare-chested tribal figure to prowling wild-life and finally trance-dancer was the visceral, gutteral live chanting of Torgeir Vassvik – sounding, at times, as if his throat was a crevasse stretching deep into the earth’s core. Unexpectedly mystical and utterly compelling, not least because both men are masters of their art.

The four mini-kilted schoolgirls on-stage in Juck (Swedish for ‘hump’) are not just in command of their insistent pelvic thrustings, they’re in full-on control of the gender-political assertiveness that comes with the shift from demure bubble-blowing to the thrusting sexuality that expresses, and owns, their identity as confident women. It’s explicit in its shades of arousal, but the real tease is that they’re doing it for themselves.

Room 2 Manoeuvre’s work in progress, Without a Hitch, saw the kind of Scottish-Nordic crossover that Deyes hoped would emerge from the DanceBase exchange programme. Finland’s Pontus Linder – who, along with Olov Ylinenpaa, had nailed the camraderie and conflicts of two break-dancing guys sharing a flat in the hugely entertaining Skal – joined Daniel Lowenstein, Oleg Kiricenko and head honcho Tony Mills in a wickedly funny exposé of the internal rivalries and mighty egos behind some very tasty, tight and smoking dance. Ashley Jack’s The Unknown, with Levent Nyembo as her male counterpoint in exploring a sense of self, was further proof that Scotland’s urban dance scene is using hip hop moves with fresh, imaginative flair. Canadian-Swedish duo Tentacle Tribe are already leaders in that expressive field, not just because Emmanuelle Le Phan and Elon Hoglund are extraordinary technicians across a variety of styles but because, as in Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid, their elastic bodies tell stories of life, love, dreams and disappointments. A stunning sampler – hopefully, to be continued.