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Edinburgh International Festival: Juilliard Dance – The Edinburgh Playhouse

Reviewer: Orsen Ernest


The preeminent modern dance school of America, Juilliard Dance, make their debut at this year’s Festival with a mixed enrichingly diverse programme. One of Juilliards’ most exceptional aspects is that they seem as much company as school. There’s an intelligence to their dancers; a hunger to engage as well as challenge.

Beginning with the formally exacting Waldstein Sonata. A Jose Limon conception, never performed while he was alive, but reconstructed by Daniel Lewis, Walstein is highly evocative of Balanchine in its neo-Classical aesthetic. Although clunky in places, it was a consummate performance given the punishing demands of the idiom. The piece grew into itself, and by the second movement the synchronised duets and lifts were particularly strong. The clean simplicity was beautifully supported by the Beethoven’s Sonata No 21, played superbly by fellow Juilliard alumni Yuxi Qin on piano.

Gnawa was perhaps the strongest piece of the evening. Set against a melting pot of Mediterranean cultures, Nacho Duato’s enthralling choreography displayed the dancers’ vitality at its most striking. Gnawa is both intense and inviting. The fast paced group syronicity as the company swayed, tossed and writhed, channelling an original sense of cultural expression, without ever straying into cheesy orientalism. It’s a confrontational, sensual experience.

Finally Episode 31 is wonderfully dramatic, imaginative piece of dance theatre. Alexander Ekman, has produced a witty, energetic, immersive and entertaining work. When the curtain is raised on a bare white lit stage the company chaotically fill the space with a complex picture of action and flux. Yells, chants, quick quirky jerks and jumps fill the space, and quickly the curtain falls again as one dancer, with aching slowness walks across the front. It’s hugely enjoyable stuff, and shows yet another side to these wonderfully eclectic performers.

Until Monday 27th August

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