EDINBURGH | GLASGOW | ABERDEEN | INVERNESS | DUNDEE | PERTH

Slut

at Summerhall

* * * - -

An interesting and challenging work, with remarkable narrative clarity.

Image of Slut

Despite the important historical connection that storytelling has to dance, basing a contemporary dance piece on a narrative can sound its death knell, as it so often straight-jackets the choreography unnecessarily. However, this couldn’t be less so for Amina Khayyam Dance Company’s recent work, Slut—performed in the slightly claustrophobic Old Lab at Summerhall—which is remarkable for its narrative clarity, while remaining boldly contemporary in style.

Storytelling clearly runs in Amina Khayyam’s veins. Her choreography is firmly rooted in the Indian dance tradition Kathak, but is inflected by Western contemporary dance, physical theatre and mime. It really works very well, and the dancers’ movements are clear and expressive. Khayyam herself is a fantastic dancer: her gestures having real precision and a depth of meaning, and like any good storyteller, she draws the audience so far into her tale, they almost become part of it.

Slut is undoubtedly the product of much thought and work. However, although the choreographic language is very special, there are just a few too many ideas crammed in here, and it could do with some judicious thinning and pruning to draw the choreography together. The music does not do Slut any favours either. It is turgid and unappealing, and somewhat shapeless in its overall form. In any case, Slut is a work that cries out for live music: it would really benefit from the interaction between dancers and musicians.

The story the company recount, a depressing tale of a woman’s abuse, addiction and prostitution, is unfortunately as pertinent today as it always has been (the National Crime Agency estimate, for example, that every week a woman in the UK is forced into prostitution). It is certainly difficult to watch in places, but is not very nuanced as a commentary, and because of this, verges dangerously close to becoming a cautionary tale for women, rather than being empowering in any way.

However, despite some rough edges, Slut is unquestionably an interesting work, danced with great energy by committed performers, and something that is challenging in a great many ways.