As winter itches to get going, Aberdeen sees a festival solely dedicated to contemporary dance take over its granite landscape. Spanning three weekends in October, DanceLive organised by Citymoves, the regional dance agency for North East Scotland, is now in its thirteenth year.
The line up includes local and international artists, as well as the behemoth that is Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. I speak to Kathryn Spence, one of the organisers, about the line-up. Two strands emerge: Citymove’s emphasis on programming work a non-dance audience will want to see, alongside her commitment to making DanceLive a productive platform for artists.
In terms of audience, DanceLive wants to ‘take pieces that might push people out of their comfort zone but also pieces that they might like… so it pushes them out comfortably,’ she explains.
An excellent example is Reckless Sleepers’ A String Section, an outdoor performance in the newly developed Marischal Square (surrounded by mostly empty office blocks and sheltered by a transparent ceiling in the likely event of rain). Five vacant chairs wait, before five female performers march ceremoniously in, each holding a saw. They appraise their audience as they sit, allowing the tension of expectation and incongruity of setting to play out.
Eventually, they start sawing their chairs. Their resigned and determined expressions, and frequent, silent questioning glances to each other and the audience means the sawing seems enforced, not voluntary. The performers appear trapped together, but disconnected.
Visually and temporally, the piece suits a space that people pass through casually. Audiences are momentarily pulled in, emphasising the odd inevitability of the piece: yes, they are sawing until only stumps remain. For Spence, ‘I think it’s really important to make sure the pieces you are putting outside for people to engage with that aren’t always engaged with dance are appropriate. Reckless Sleepers are perfect… because they’re not dancing all the time. They are dancers, and they end up in wonderful positions… but there’s something unusual, which means people’s attention is grabbed.’