Scottish Dance Theatre returned to The Place last week with a programme that kept you guessing, laughing and sometimes feeling a little uncomfortable, but undoubtedly the best part of the evening was experiencing the expressive honesty of the performers. Beginning the night was Second Coming by Rubber Band Dance Company’s Victor Quijada, followed by Jo Strømgren’s chilling Winter, Again. Both pieces were distinctly different in the movement vocabulary and composition, and watching the same group of dancers navigate these differences is one of my favourite parts of watching a repertory company like SDT.

Scottish Dance Theatre: Winter, Again. Nicole Guarino and Julian Juarez © Anna Isola Crolla
Scottish Dance Theatre: Winter, Again. Nicole Guarino and Julian Juarez
© Anna Isola Crolla

Victor Quijada’s work draws inspiration from his experiences growing up in Los Angeles’ hip-hop culture, and Second Coming had distinctly urban roots that extended beyond just the movement. Aided by the turntabled music score by DJ/composer Jasper Gahunia, the dancers had a cool and fresh vibe with a calm confidence I immediately recognised from US hip-hop culture. Mixing contemporary and street or hip-hop styles has become increasingly popular in the UK and abroad, and I appreciated seeing the integration of the attitude and subtle expression of hip-hop alongside incorporating tricks and isolated movement material into the contemporary technique.

The piece itself balances somewhere between performance and reality, and I enjoyed double- and triple-guessing the situation. I felt Second Coming was most successful when the dancers were very realistic in their intentions and communications with the audience and each other. The highlight of the piece for me was a playful and well-timed trio of “solos” performed by Joan Clevillé, Nicole Guarino and Jori Kerremans. They were having fun with the movement and music, and I could have watched it ten more times and still laughed just as loud. The only thing I struggled with was the progression of the piece. Because of the storyline, Second Coming was fragmented and confusing at times, and I don’t feel like it ever achieved a natural arc or resolution. It felt instead like a work in progress, which for me deflated the piece’s overall impact.

After the interval, Jo Strømgren’s Winter, Again veered in a very different direction. The piece tells the enigmatic tale of an odd group of people, and their connection to the winter season. This piece was rich with interesting little vignettes and idiosyncrasies, with dancers entering and exiting from a shredded white paper curtain at the back of the stage. While movement and attitude were at the forefront of Quijada’s piece, in Winter, Again I was drawn much more to the environment created and the characters that inhabited it. This platform allowed the dancers in SDT to show their strength creating characters that are realistic, multidimensional and entertaining to watch. Winter, Again had me wrapped up in an interesting little world, and I felt that each element within the piece was expertly placed and integrated by Strømgren and the dance artists.

This year, Scottish Dance Theatre’s tour combines two pieces that, while very different, have the distinct signature of strength and mastery I have come to expect from this company. Quijada’s Second Coming is a playful, if not entirely successful, exploration of reality and performance, in the smooth style of LA hip-hop. And Strømgren’s Winter, Again is a swirling snapshot of a group of snow-loving eccentrics. Both pieces were enjoyable, and both were performed with beautiful honesty.