My People - Dance ☆☆☆3
Showing from - Monday, August 24, 2015 through till Saturday, August 29, 2015
Zoo Southside - Edinburgh Fringe 2015 - Edinburgh
Rachel Elderkin | Monday, August 24, 2015
My People, by Gwyn Emberton Dance, is inspired by Caradoc Evans’ collection of short stories by the same name.
A Welsh author who influenced the writing of Dylan Thomas, Evans’ tales relate stories of madness and temptation within a close village community.
Scattered round the stage, the six dancers appear from the darkness, the dim light slowly revealing phrases of movement that develop with the building music.The dancer labours across the stage, pulling and twisting, her writhing body the epitome of the traditional madwoman It’s a brief moment of unison in a work that soon splits into individual stories, where women are figures to be either manipulated or tempted. The dark sexuality of Evans’ work recurs throughout the piece, most noticeably in the sexually charged male/female duets where the line between desire and struggle is never quite clear, the dancers clutching at each other’s bodies and falling in and out of lifts.
Evans’ A Father in Sion relates the story of a woman considered mad. Locked in the attic she is taken out at night by her husband on a cow’s harness. The tale creates one of the most striking images of My People. Restrained by a length of rope the dancer labours across the stage, pulling and twisting against it, her writhing body the epitome of the traditional madwoman.
In Evans’ work, so the programme tells us, white shirts denote religious rites and My People uses this to move between its stories. Repeatedly shirts are pulled on and pulled off until the lifeless form of the dancer, their story exhausted, is replaced by another; and so the cycle repeats. It’s an effective way to capture the intensity of life in Evans’ fictional community, one which suggests a twisted balance between control and support.
For an hour long work My People has little variation in pace, but the choreography is intricate and holds the interest as these individual stories, bound together by their characters’ struggles, flutter in and out of the piece. Among the dark themes and dim lighting of this work it feels like a burst of energy could help hold the attention. However for any lover of dance the skill of the dancers and strength of their performance will be enough.
It ends in an echo of the beginning. Individual dancers enter the space, their movement overlapping as the piece finally builds. They dance together; only one is left struggling alone. Whatever it lacks in variation, My People perfectly captures the essence of Evans’ stories.
Rachel Elderkin is reporting for Downstage Centre at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe.
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