One of the best things about this year’s Festival Fringe, is the quantity and quality of dance on offer, and there is an especially interesting and well-programmed selection of exciting new work appearing at Dance Base. It is always a special experience seeing dance in a more intimate setting, and it is thus a real pleasure to discover that many of the Fringe dance performances are in smaller venues.
Tjimur Dance Theatre’s Gaze of the Kavaluan, for example, genuinely benefits from being presented in one of Dance Base’s small, modern studios, and it is hard to imagine it working as well in a larger space. The dance floor is delineated by a rectangle of neon strip lights, bounding the dancers in various ways, either containing them completely, acting as a traditional, linear veil between performer and audience or when completely off, opening the space out to include the audience. At various times the boundaries between dancers and audience are blurred, dancers overflowing into the audience, and audience members fetched onto the dance floor.
The idea of boundaries is one of the themes of Gaze of the Kavaluan, which is concerned with the conflict between the traditional value of chastity (symbolised by the lily) and the more open, contemporary view of sex and sexuality that many people now have. As the barriers between indigenous and external cultures are broken down, tensions begin to form between old and new lifestyles.
Balu Madalin’s choreography expresses the conflicting pulls of old and new extremely well, as watched over by the traditional (symbolised by a figure swathed in black and holding a lily), the dancers try to make sense of their traditions in the context of new found freedoms. The dancers are very dynamic and work well as an ensemble; their singing of traditional melodies, a poignant reminder of the traditional, whereas their display of ambiguous sexuality and licence, a demonstration of our modern mores.
This is well thought out and well executed dance, short, direct and to the point: at times fraught, at times sexy and at times humorous. Gaze of the Kavaluan is one of a number of excellent shows that make up the Fringe’s Tawain Season, any of which would be worth dropping in on.