Dance Review: Scottish Dance Theater – The Life and Times

The Life and Times of Scottish Dance Theater PIC: Sean Millas

After more than a year locked out of the theatre, the thrill of live performance is becoming a distant memory. For dance fans, however, the plethora of films created to fill the void have done a great job under difficult circumstances.

What we have with Scottish Dance Theater’s The Life and Times is a hybrid designed to support us in the transition from digital to live. So while performers have returned to the Dundee Rep stage from the remote locations where they spent lockdown, we’re still home to watch them.

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Like most choreographers, Joan Clevillé hoped to make people react with her latest creation. What he didn’t want was for the audience to think “it’s great, but I’d rather be in the theater watching it”. He achieved his goal – largely because if we were actually sitting in Dundee Rep watching The Life and Times it would be a scene of utter chaos.

Broadcast live with a single continuous shot, the hour-long show only works when viewed through a single lens. With so many moving parts in play, it would be impossible to consume it any other way. Yet it feels entirely live and in the moment, a shared experience where you can almost smell the greasy paint.

Digital artist Tao-Anas Le Thanh’s masterful camera weave is akin to watching a magician at work. Wheeled platforms temporarily block our view, moving to reveal a new dancer in place, or one way or another. Kudos to the performers and stage crew for their split-second timing.

Structure plays such a central role in our enjoyment that content is almost like a supporting role. But Cleville’s movement, set to the greatest hits of baroque pieces, is powerfully sinuous, with a tension that indeed captures the era we’ve all lived through.

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