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Scottish Dance Theatre (Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Scottish Dance Theatre is Scotland’s national contemporary dance company. They premiere two new works in their short run at the Lowry in Salford.

The Life and Times of Girl A is devised by established choreographer and performer Ben Duke and is described as “a work about moments of crisis when all we need is to use less to say more.“ The piece is lead by French born dancer Solene Weinachter who plays a woman who seems to want to connect with various members of the company but never quite manages it. She talks to the audience and instructs various dancers to take part in apparently improvised sequences where she needs them to woo her in some way. The discrepancy between this need and their reluctance to speak as they are dancers evokes much comedy. 

The spoken text though quirky and often clever gets in the way of the dancing. It is difficult fully to experience the movements as they would cease and the work for a while would become a spoken piece of theatre. This makes it rather disjointed and irritating on those frequent occasions. There is a very strong group sequence though with some funky strutting in the style of Bob Fosse to some lively rock music. The movement is delivered at differing speeds and through the use of clever slow motion action replays.

The second piece is much more successful. NQR is an acronym for Not Quite Right which is used in medical records to describe unexplained difference. It is choreographed by SDT Dance Agent for Change Caroline Bowditch, Associate Director Fellow Marc Drew and Artistic Director Janet Smith.  

Bowditch and Drew joined the company on stage for this work which showed the beauty and the challenge of disability. The assumptions about and invisibility of disabled people are beautifully explored. The dancers do a sequence as a group where they appear to be moving their limbs in ways that suggest they did not have full use of their bodies.

There is an amazing tableau where both Caroline and Marc were on centre stage and a wheel chair was shown in silhouette in a light box and legs were dangled precariously in another. The way all the dancers interact with the two who use wheelchairs is very sensual and tinged with great wit. At one point dancer Toby Fitzgibbons measures the others with a tape measure which is reminiscent of the one Mary Poppins employs.

The live music from Cellist Robin Mason adds further depth to the evening. The curtain call is taken from a seated position which further enhances the experience. With work of this calibre it is not hard to see why the Scottish Dance Theatre is so popular.

- Andrew Edwards


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