Scottish Ballet demonstrate once again that they are unwilling to take any easy options, by programming a powerful, uncompromising double bill for their slot at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. What is more, the company palpably thrive on this sort of challenge. Neither of the two works presented tonight, Angelin Preljoçaj’s MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) and Crystal Pite’s Emergence, are easy from either a technical or intellectual perspective, but the response from the dancers is simply to up their game and there is a really marked cohesion to their performance.

Preljoçaj’s work, first performed in 2000, has an intensity that is sometimes difficult to watch. It concentrates on the male body in an almost Foucaultian way, the docile body portrayed both as a site of discipline and target of power. However, resistance is also here, the individual voice insisting on expression, despite attempts at its control.

It is both beautiful and horrifying, the design, the lighting and the tableaux-like forms give it a striking, oil-painting look, while its depictions of subordination and torture are very disturbing, the audience tangibly uncomfortable, some even having to leave. Despite MC 14/22‘s physical and emotional demands, the focus of the 12 male dancers is incredible—this must be some of their best work for Scottish Ballet—and they give it a real clarity, every movement carefully placed.

MC 14/22 is a difficult work to follow, but Pite’s Emergence balances tonight’s double bill very well, carefully chosen to maintain the programme’s intensity. Created in 2009, Emergence takes as its inspiration theories of swarm intelligence, and looks at how complexity can emerge from multiple, small interactions.

It is one of those works where theory has been translated incredibly well into practice, but not at all in a sterile manner. There is an unquestionable lucidity to the carefully structured choreography, and this is again realised by meticulous dancing. It ends impressively with a moment of breathtaking synchronicity.

This is a fulfilling and thought-provoking programme, and certainly one of the highlights of this year’s Festival.

(Photos: Kenny Mathieson)