Monumental review – everything’s turned up

Playhouse, Edinburgh
Dance company Holy Body Tattoo and cult band Godspeed You! Black Emperor combine to exhausting but euphoric effect

“Warning. This performance contains loud music”, read the signs on the way into the Playhouse for this work by Vancouver-based dance company Holy Body Tattoo. Which is true (it’s ear-splittingly, solar-plexus-thumpingly loud) but rather misses the point. The performance itself is about the music, provided by cult Canadian punk band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their decision to reform prompted choreographers Noam Gagnon and Dana Gingras to remount this epic piece, first seen in 2006 – and the musicians perform live on stage, shadowy presences behind a gauze.

The dance, like the sound, demands extreme levels of endurance. It opens with the nine dancers spotlit on pedestals, like classical statues but in black-and-white business attire. They begin to move in small, repetitive everyday gestures that become larger as they bend their knees, or swing their arms, or fling their hair in unison. Over the course of 75 minutes the regimented, synchronised nature of their actions barely flags, but the mood becomes more frantic – until finally, they jump from their pillars and race around the stage, adopting poses of flight and fight, jumping, running, screaming, compulsively scratching as if they want to tear off their skin. The vision of a society in terminal disarray is further emphasised by gnomic sentences by artist Jenny Holzer flashing up above the dancer’s heads, and speeded-up films of turbines whirring, or highways flashing by. It’s exhausting just to watch, but euphoric too – a thrilling vision of dissolution that somehow suggests the capacity of humans to survive.

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Source: Guardian Dance News

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