Velvet Petal: Bedroom is a pared down version of Scottish Dance Theatre’s latest full-length work, Velvet Petal, which was premiered in Mexico City in November 2016, and will be performed again in the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, at the end of September 2017.
This adaptation works so well, and uses the cramped space of Summerhall’s Old Lab so successfully, it is hard to imagine that this work, created by choreographer and Artistic Director of SDT, Fleur Darkin, has a bigger sibling at all. Yes, perhaps its sections do occasionally feel bluntly edited together, and a few times the trajectories and energy of the dancers seem constrained by the space. However, the intimacy and directness the venue affords is a great match for the choreography, and the dancers seem to thrive performing this close to the audience.
Indeed, the dancers are on amazing form, and have reached a stage with Darkin’s choreography where they can be completely inside the work—have formed a real connection to it. Their vitality and the carefully chosen music draw the audience into the centre of the work, making them part of it too.
Darkin’s choreography is fresh and clever, never pushing the agendas of the various catalysts to its creation too much. At the same time, there is something of the fragile brashness of Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower photographs (these and other Mapplethorpe images are some of the inspirations behind Velvet Petal) in the dancer’s movements, and there is almost a playful exploration of identity and how we perform things such as gender and sexuality.
It ends on a complete high, dancers bringing out all their reserves for the final sprint to the finish: a surge of colour. Having seen this very special metamorphosis of Velvet Petal at Summerhall, it is difficult to envision seeing the original, at a distance, on the huge stage of the Festival Theatre. So when you do come to see Velvet Petal: Bedroom—and you must—try to get a seat in the front row, or even better, sit on one of the pillows on the stage. You will experience it at its best, if you are in its midst.