Scottish Ballet’s Autumn Season 2016 presents an outstanding display of new productions by established and emerging choreographers: Crystal Pite, Sophie Laplane and Jake Webb. Some ballets create the impression that dancers transcend their bodies. Each of these contemporary pieces, however, interrogate the sheer physicality of dance. Sibilo is a particular treat, full of playful composition and choreography.
Drawn to Drone is thrown into tonight’s programme as a surprise. The one-man performance, created by choreographer and musician Jack Webb, is performed by the riveting Christopher Harrison. Balancing on a tipped back chair and wearing nothing but white y-fronts, he moves in hypnotic, achingly slow motion to a steady electronic drone until the stage goes dark. The piece is simple, physically demanding and an exciting debut for Webb.
Following the success of her production Maze, choreographer Sophie Laplane’s Sibilo is a collaboration with Scottish music producer Alex ‘Smoke’ Menzies, and premieres tonight. Sibilo is Latin for whistling which, Laplane says, ‘became a running theme throughout the whole piece.’ We get military whistle blasts, flirtatious whistles and cheeky, old fashioned tunes akin to silent film soundtracks. Other motifs include the sound of heartbeats, quirky shoulder shimmies, and clothes that vanish up into the roof. The set and costumes are minimal, enabling the audience to focus on the raw materials of the performance. Laplane alternates cute, comic sketches with moving pas de deux and intimate group sequences. My favourite scene is a touching trio about not being able to whistle. Laplane has a talent for creating character dynamics in a few movements. Menzies’ score fizzes with humour, personality and diverse, bold scope. The audience whistle their appreciation, and I’ll be whistling the overture to Sibilo until I get hold of the full score.
Crystal Pite’s award-winning Emergence takes the beehive as a metaphor for the hierarchy of a ballet company. All 36 of Scottish Ballet’s dancers take part, scuttling out from a tunnel at the back of the stage. Picture Sophie Martin contorted like an ant beneath a magnifying glass. Picture a line of ballerinas in black bearing down on the men, whose twisting bodies are all painted with the same dark patterns. Two dancers’ silhouettes merge within the tunnel to create the shape of a giant beetle, a trick Pite could have developed further. The company fall in and out of formation to the sound of marching and clicking. The piece feels as military as it does insect-like, with the dancers counting their steps in unison as their endurance is pushed to the limit. Emergence is definitely another success for Pite.
Scottish Ballet’s artistic director Christopher Hampson invites us to watch the dancers ‘carve space.’ This is also the night Laplane and Webb carve out new spaces for themselves in the world of choreography, joining the ranks of Crystal Pite. It’s the night Menzies makes his mark with an unforgettable soundtrack. Autumn Season 2016 is touring Scotland and the only decision that remains is whether to watch the production in Dundee or Inverness. Either way, you must see these incredible new works.