In honour of the 50th anniversary year of the Scottish Ballet, Spring! hits the stage with an old classic and a new gem in dance. This gorgeous double bill features the world premiere of Sophie Laplane’s Dextera, alongside Elite Syncopations by Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Though the two pieces vary widely in tone, they go beautifully together in a performance I can honestly say I didn’t want to end.
First up was Laplane’s Dextera. Set to some of Mozart’s most celebrated compositions, it explores the relationship between dancers and their hands, each other, themselves, you name it. All interpretations are go with this delightfully original piece. It subverts a number of conventions in the ballet world, creating all-male or all-female pas de deux, featuring cross-dressing dancers, and imbuing male dancers with all the grace of the female, and vice versa. It is refreshing to see choreography that is not stifled by the restrictions of tradition. It’s further visually stunning to see male dancers performing the fouettés usually reserved for the female, and female dancers lifting the male.
The piece incorporates elements of objectification and a loss of autonomy over one’s own body. Be it the dancers in gloves losing control of their hands, or the dancers in harnesses being manhandled up and down the stage, the manipulation becomes ever more absurd and comical, whilst retaining all the beauty and seriousness that it deserves. My favourite sequence featured a pair of female dancers with a glove each, fighting against the impulses of their gloved hands.
It’s a piece that absolutely suits its name. The moves are sharp and performed with impressive control and synchronicity, something made even harder by the large number of dancers onstage. The choreography forms a complement to the music and vice versa, rather than one being accompanied by the other. Moments when dancers began their sequences before the music were especially beautiful. I loved every second of this daring, comical, beautiful new piece.
It was then followed by Elite Syncopations, set to the music of Scott Joplin. It’s rare to see a ballet that sets out to make the audience laugh, and doubly so one set to ragtime tunes. Yet MacMillan’s composition is absolutely successful. Wit and jollity abound to the delight of the audience, who just can’t get enough of Jamiel Laurence and Eve Mutso in their ‘Tall and Short’ dance.
Visually, this piece is a riot. Hand-painted costumes for both dancers and the orchestra (who are onstage!) create a convincing party atmosphere. That the dancers stand onstage and watch each other perform adds another layer of conviviality to the performance, and a valuable one at that. Watching the dancers have an obviously great time makes the audience enjoy it just as much.
The dancing is impressive and slick, with leaps and turns performed so effortlessly that it looks like magic. The choreography is, however, wickedly difficult, but the dancers move like firecrackers. The Hot House Rag was particularly astounding in its energy and abandon. The comic aspect is well-incorporated and never felt forced. All of this contributed to a performance that looks like a genuine joy to dance (I also really liked the look of the yellow pointe shoes sported by the ensemble).
In short – wow. These two pieces, though different, complemented each other well, and created a simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking show. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this. It is not one to miss.
PHOTOS: Capital Theatres