@ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh on Wed 18 Feb 2015

With an animalistic ensemble of robotic, hypnotic moving creatures, Damien Jalet‘s critically acclaimed YAMA, created with Scottish Dance Theatre, is taut, robust, mesmerising and evocative, and only slightly marred by an inability to captivate right from the off.

Inspired by the pagan and animist rituals practised among the mountains of Japan, the systematically demanding choreography – supplemented by the ability of the dancers, weaving in and out of each other, limbs akimbo, solidified together with matching lion’s manes and skin-coloured body suits – allows for only a short, uninspiring opening few minutes, before the viewer becomes completely transfixed.

With an aeroplane-like droning permeating the vicinity, and a cadence apt to the intermittent stillness, there is at times an eerie tension, only occasionally broken by the perfectly-timed movement of one of the cast members.

As a spectacle, this inimitable piece of theatre certainly delivers. At times somnambulistic, the inspired movements are cathartic, almost inviting the spectators to run onto the stage and join in.

The electrifying energy is more evident when the ensemble move at a slower pace, and the overall performance could be slightly enhanced by a little less flaring of the arms, and a few more moments of stillness. Having said that, the synchronisation of the quicker movements is, without question, flawless.

As the tense, galvanising dénouement approaches, there is a refreshing gasp as these animal-like creatures change from the collective to the individual. With an unfaltering stamina, an unwavering strength, and never-ending endurance, YAMA is an organic, purifying piece of contemporary dance which, apart from a slightly slow beginning, doesn’t falter for a second.

YAMA by Damien Jalet from Scottish Dance Theatre on Vimeo.