The Times, Aug. 15, 2003
Stretched to the limit
SMALL but choice, the Edinburgh Festival's 2003 dance programme pays homage to the past (Bordeaux Opera Ballet's tribute to Picasso) but looks to the future (San Francisco Ballet's triple bill of work by the British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon). On a smaller scale, Cullberg Ballet did the same. The Swedish company kicked off the main festival dance season with a double bill at the Playhouse that showcased artistic directors past and present. Together, the pieces by former Cullberg boss Mats Ek and current head Johan Inger made for an impressive opening.
       Both Cullberg   dances  followed a vivid dream   logic pitched  between wild party and   expressionist cabaret but with a dark undertow. The lingering  theme of Inger's one  actor  was    domestic imprison-
ment and victimisation. Charlotte Broom headed an excellent cast of nine as a woman vidently in turmoil. Hooking up with a clubbing crowd, she encountered equally unhappy female counterparts.
     Inger has obviously absorbed Ek's signature style. He too finds the flow in strings of goofy, gawky, weighted movement. Splashy, stretched-out unison passages or canonic patterns provided greater physical amplification. Doubling as designer, he made deft use of free-standing walls to reconfigure the stage space.    Ek's Fluke, for a dozen dancers, was a longer, bigger foray into similar territory. The major set-piece and reigning, allpurpose symbol was a pair of huge, movable cubes. Heavy matters - wall-beating aggression, sexual frustration, the lie of domestic bliss - were treat-
Cullberg Ballet
Islands in the Stream
Bird's Eye View
There Where We Were
Donald Hutera
extended routine lifted, props and all. from the Chinese circus.
    Laying on the absurdist misery a tad thickly, Ek's pawing, push-pull writing began to pall. But this was bracing stuff. Afterwards the two dances rightly merged in the memory. Much of the best dance on the Fringe, meanwhile, is in the Aurora Nova programme of international dance and physical / visual theatre at the St Stephens venue.
    The main element in cult group Derevo's Islands in the Stream is water. Camp nautical humour is juxtaposed against more profound considerations of the origins and purpose of life. Brilliantly scored, gorgeously lit and performed with superlative skill by four core actors, this is Derevo's danciest, most delicate show yet.
  Contrastingly, Do-Theatre's Quintet Bird's Eye View takes
to the air for a romantic, comically and kinetically inventive meditation on flight, from aircraft to birds. The piece is as fluffy as the white feathers littering the stage, but it is also delightfully performed and beautifully designed.
   Deja Donne (Czech Lenka Flory and Italian Simone Sandroni), by contrast, is unsparing in its depiction of the shifting power play between the compact Sandroni, sensual Teodora Popova and fierce Masako Noguchi. With surgical precision the three grip, grab, roll and slap their way through There Where We Were, a wordless drama of convulsive physical tirades, controlling seductions and stalking oppression. Nothing false or showy here, but a tantalising hint of punitive gladiatorial exhilaration.
ed with a variably ironic hand. he tone was funny, occasionally tender, mostly merciless.
    Dancers in summer lawn-party white switched adeptly from barking boisterousness to sudden, silent stillness, accompanied by the Swedish cult group Flesh Quartet's ominous pop-rock soundtrack. Outbursts of defiant energy included a giddily
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