Last year’s Edinburgh International Festival offering from Scottish Ballet was simply spellbinding; Helen Pickett’s choreography of The Crucible deservedly gained a whole string of accolades from the arts industry. And so, it is with some trepidation that dance fans tune in for An Evening with Scottish Ballet – part of the innovative My Light Shines On programme, which the festival hopes will manage to provide some of the festival experience, albeit from the sofa.
An Evening with Scottish Ballet is a series of six short dance pieces which vary in both style and appeal. Prometheus & Epimetheus opens the show with a stripped back, fluid performance highlighting the strong ballet technique and quality of movement of the dancers, though it lacks some pizazz. Next is Trace, a pas-de-deux which, though choreographed by Pickett, doesn’t hold attention the way her 2019 work did. Is it just that dance does not translate to a great on-screen experience?
Oxymore from Sophie Laplane squashes any suggestion that this is the case. Completely mesmerising and cleverly shot in a theatre storeroom, dancers Rishan Benjamin and Anna Williams really showcase the deftness of the choreography as well as their own dance talent.
Frontiers is also clever. Shot in a Glasgow underpass as night draws in, it has an urban, edgy feel at odds with the stereotypes of a ballet company. This is exactly what Artistic Director Christopher Hampson likes best – pushing boundaries. That said, Idle Eyes perhaps pushes the boundaries a touch too far – certainly for ballet purists. The jerky quality is jarring and uncomfortable to watch and may well be the marmite piece of the production as a whole.
Still, Scottish Ballet save the best until last. Catalyst is a work that has been produced especially for this festival and the current climate – face masks and all. A ghost light sits solitary on the stage: a nod to the light left on in all theatres when they are closed, and also a stark reminder of the current sad state of the arts industry. Alongside a magnificent music track from Ben Chatwin, Nicholas Shoesmith has created a work contemporary in style but in keeping with the classical ballet training of the company. It is quite simply stunning, and begs to be seen by a full audience in a theatre some day. Hopefully that will be soon as Scottish Ballet are a company who do it best on a stage.