Silent Space, Dance Ihayami’s Autumn show touring around Scotland this year, was something else. Catching them at the Studio in Edinburgh half way through their tour provided an insight into a world of dance I had previously been unaware of. It also showed me a Scottish company who is really pushing the boundaries of Indian dance in Scotland and is always looking to completely engage its audience and get them involved.
This engagement aspect was especially exaggerated with the opening dance including some local older people who had been working with the company as part of Luminate 2016. Luminate is Scotland’s creative ageing festival that works to include the older community in creative events and activities. Although their performance wasn’t the most polished it was still warming to see the Luminate participants incorporated in the company’s main show. They were outshined however by Ihayami Fusion, Dance Ihayami’s youth dance group, who performed alongside them. The young dancers showed real potential and polish and brought a vibrancy to the stage that Silent Space lacked through the rest of the performance. In all honesty, the Ihayami Fusion piece was perhaps the strongest and most enjoyable piece in the show.
The show then progressed past the curtain raiser to the main work of the company which all were generally very similar. Silent Space, the first piece, was as implied performed in silence looking at how the voice and body interact. Repetitive Indian chants and an astonishing range of sounds made through various methods of hand clapping was the sole accompaniment to the dance movements. They were very tightly choreographed but very slow and rhythmical which is soothing to watch at first but slightly soporific after a while. Moving onto Rhapsody which was performed to western classical music the mood picked up before slowing down again for the later pieces.
A New Turn accompanied by The String Quartet, No. 8 in C minor, Oppus 110 was strong and a really good example of the polish the company is capable of perfecting and showing to the audience. However after this the pace dropped and the show resumed its languid journey through Indian dance movements. The last two pieces Ardhareswara and Nritta were accompanied by a talented flautist, Marion Kenny, but even her enchanting music failed to really captivate the audience’s attention. By this point towards the end of the show even the most committed of audience members was struggling to remain engaged with the dancers. All the pieces were very separate and the audience felt removed. The order of the pieces did not come across as thought through, the pieces sadly did not flow into each other and they were frankly not arranged in a way as to keep the audience captivated.
Also the repetitive use of Indian chants and words was very powerful at evoking the Indian culture and the heritage of these movements but it was also very limiting – even a brief explanation at the beginning of the show, or in the programme, for those interested could have been enough to keep audience’s attention instead of sadly through lack of understanding losing interest. Altogether it was clear to see they are a talented company with some very good aims and initiatives but the show as a whole did not have me leaving the theatre wowed or eager to return unfortunately. I would however be keen to see Ihayami Fusion again and see some of the enthusiasm they instil in their younger dancers in the main company.