Fringe 2012: Dance

The Skinny / Gareth K Vile

This year’s Festivals offer a plethora of innovative and challenging new takes on the artform of dance – we take a look at some of the most exciting shows on offer.

Although the Dance and Physical Theatre section of the Fringe brochure remains around the same size every year, more companies are acknowledging movement as the foundation of their theatre. Dance Base has expanded its programme, while Greenside seems to be gathering more dance into its pastoral venue: Zoo, Summerhall and Universal all maintain healthy physical theatre strands. Most excitingly, dance is regaining the confidence to address serious issues (Smallpetitklein wrestle with 9/11, the Grumpy Old Dancers rail against the dying of the light) and incorporate other arts (Curious Seed artistic director is duetting with writer and musician Luke Sutherland towards a comic choreography, Ballet Preljocaj mix classical ballet and techno).

The Fringe also marks other physical theatre styles’ increasing influence. Lecoq, once only vaguely known in the UK as a “clown school” is heavily represented. Rhuma and Clay, back after last year’s success, Sing A Strange Wild Song that delves into personal history and respects Lecoq.

“Lecoq inspires creativity,” they explain. “A testament to this is the amount of companies that have come out of the school. From Complicite to last year’s hit company Theatre Ad Infinitum, who are also returning this year, success from Lecoq companies is carried by the quality of the work.”

Even choreographers more clearly in a dance tradition are admitting outside influences. Luke Murphy, visiting Dance Base with Driftwood, was trained at the Legat School – a very classical, Russian system – but adds “I was able to study theatre simultaneously, while working in New York has definitely opened up both my aesthetics and my interests.”

Murphy is unwilling to pin his work down to a category: “I guess I don’t know what camp I’m in. But I don’t really know what camp anyone’s in at this point. Dance, physical theatre, dance theatre – I think the lines are blurring. I feel like you can pitch your tent anywhere you want if that’s the place that’ll help tell the story.”

Ponydance, arriving from Ireland on the back of storming Adelaide and Edinburgh in 2010, share Murphy’s enthusiasm for getting past the expectations of dance. They prefer to perform in nightclubs rather than on the stage: “The original reason to get out of the usual spaces was to try and reach audiences that don’t go to theatres or to see dance,” they laugh. With audience participation, a sharp, satirical eye for social absurdity, and an efferevescent sense of fun, Ponydance savage preconceptions about dance’s inaccessibility or elitism.

Down at Zoo, Pair Dance examine the gap between the real and the illusions caused by technology: Duality adds a bespoke soundscore and integrated 2D and 3D media to the company’s distinctive, frenetic energy. “Duality is actually what the work is – Dance and Technology,” says artistic director Harriet Macauley. “It brings two states and pulls them together. Both the physical and virtual dancer are presented, then elements including sound, digital live feed and movement gestures highlight their characters and abilities.”

Even in this tiny cross section of the physical theatre programme, the diversity and ambition of the sector is clear: although physical theatre has often been seen as a European form, its presence in Edinburgh is influencing Scottish companies and the Fringe presents the oportunity to explore how the art is moving.