Thursday, August 18, 2016
Smother (ZOO Southside, Edinburgh Fringe)
It's not often you see homosexuality explored through hip hop, which makes 201 Dance Company's Smother all the more important. Dance is an art form where you see people of the same sex in unusually intimate situations quite commonly, but that is not necessarily sexual, merely the consequence of the choreography. Smother is about gay people, and so the intimacy becomes charged with a purposefully sexual subtext.
It is the touching story of two men who fall in love, but whose relationship is not perfect, and whose connection is put under strain by one party's abuse of drugs. Chalk dust usually used for grip cleverly doubles up as a certain white powder here, which the user aggressively blows in his boyfriend's face - it's a beautiful, visual way to get the theme across.
Pushed away by his boyfriend's drug use, our hero falls into the arms of a third man, who to all intents and purposes seems to be just fine for him. But that soul-mate connection isn't quite there, and when his ex arrives back on the scene, clean and repentant, they fall back together.
It's a beautiful story accompanied by heart-pounding bass tracks and heart-melting guitar ballads. The opening routine is powerful, chest-thumping stuff, and the two lead dancers - Chris Tendai and choreographer and company founder Andrea Walker - are symbiotically linked in their routine. They are rarely out of sync, and have obviously worked on their routines to the point where they are as one on the stage.
There's some powerful choreography, in particular the moment where Walker and Tendai have sex, the former astride the latter. They writhe in unison, then arch back, a rigid forearm rearing between them in an uncompromisingly phallic statement. This is sexy stuff and makes no apologies for depicting the realities of the word it's depicting.
There's also a touching moment of comedy in a vignette between Amy Lucas and Michaela Cisarikova, two lesbian lovers getting to know one another and who fall victim to the awkwardness of that first bedroom encounter, when clothes never comes off as smoothly as they do in the movies!
Smother is a thrusting, pounding celebration of youth, those falling-in-love moments of tenderness which give way to animal instinct. Its depiction of soul-mates is touching and real, and there's some creative, energising choreography along the way. This is 201 Dance Company's first full length production, and it's only to be hoped there's much more to come from Andrea Walker's stable.
Choreographer/ director: Andrea Walker
Creative producer/ associate director: Patrick Collier
Performers: Amy Lucas, Ash Lloyd, Andrea Walker, Chris Tendai, Dineshi Nirgunananthan, Luca Fracasso, Michaela Cisarikova
Performed at ZOO Southside, Edinburgh, August 5th to 27th, 2016. Performance reviewed: August 16th, 2016
201 Dance Company website (retrieved Aug 18 2016)
Smother trailer (retrieved Aug 18 2016)