August 25, 2017 Velvet Petal Edinburgh Guide / Vivien Devlin The allusive, illusory nature of choreography depicts through gesture and movement, human emotions and the drama of life. The inspiration for this enigmatic piece by Fleur Darkin was the drawing together of two distinct artistic narratives. “Velvet Petal:Bedroom” was first created for UK-Mexico 2015 (with funding from the Mexican Ministry of Culture) – the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the Sierra Madres forest is home to millions of these colourful insects with their soft velvety wings. The aesthetic art of Robert Mapplethorpe is also a key influence, based on his stylised male and female nudes, flowers and celebrity faces to illustrate diversity in race, gender and morality. His documentation of the New York S & M scene was regarded as shocking, to which he responded, “I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before.” As the audience take their seats, the Old Lab theatre at Summerhall is dark with a group of shadowy figures sitting around the stage, furnished with a mattress and a rail of clothes. Ten dancers are dressed in a mismatched assortment of logo T shirts, leggings, shorts, underpants and pin striped suits, illustrating androgynous fashion and transgender society. The pounding dance-punk score creates an immediate force of energy and performances to match – loose limbed twisting and turning with extraordinary agility and grace. The bedroom here is Mapplethorpe territory where his camera would study the nakedness of beautiful bodies playing polyamorous games with leather, rubber and ropes. We are voyeurs observing the wild physicality as well as quiet intimacy of two men embracing, caressing, tumbling on the mattress, followed by a girl stripping off in a seductive pose. Much of the action is about the mode and manner of undressing and dressing, with the cast selecting a piece of clothing from an eclectic choice of costumes, kimonos, a Carrie Bradshaw-style pink net skirt, leopard print onesie, jackets and jeans. Slipping out of these garments reflects the repetitive process of shedding and moulting the skins, five times to transform finally from pupa to butterfly. The ensemble of dancers create an hypnotic dream sequence, free flowing from the brilliant to the bizarre. A stunning image is of a girl whose face is masked by a portrait of Mapplethorpe himself, as she slowly unbuttons her shirt. Equally impressive is the tight precision of several fast paced duets – breathtaking, liberating joy in love and life. “I want to see the devil in us all. Beauty and the devil are the same thing.” Robert Mapplethorpe Scottish Dance Theatre has always created visually exciting and emotionally powerful work and this celebration of photographic art and the wonders of nature creates an erotic and electrifying dance-drama. This Fringe show is an extract from the original full length production, which will be staged at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre on 30 September, 2017.