Dance review: Dance Derby
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Dance Derby at Paterson’s Land (Venue 247), reviewed by Kelly Apter
Maybe in years to come, people will look back and question how we ever condoned locking strangers up in a house together to win a cash prize. But as bad as Big Brother gets, it’s in a different league to the so-called “entertainment” of Depression-era USA.
The dance marathons of the 1930s not only provided participants with the chance to win some serious money, but for the duration of their involvement, there was the promise of regular food and shelter – something not always readily available in their everyday lives.
This sense of desperation, and willingness to sacrifice health and sanity, is perfectly captured in Company Chordelia’s Dance Derby.
Focusing on five couples taking part in a marathon with almost 400 contenders, the show takes us inside the lives of those down at heel enough to risk everything for money. Some look grey and tired before it’s even started, and as the hours roll by, and heavy exhaustion grips, it becomes increasingly difficult to watch them (and remind ourselves that, once upon a time, people bought tickets to view this barbaric display).
Each couple is given their moment in the spotlight, courtesy of an infernally cheerful MC. One woman is five months’ pregnant, another couple has been married for 30 years – all of them are looking for a company to sponsor them, like moving advertisements on the dance floor.
Allowed just ten minutes’ sleep every two hours, the dancers soon become physically and mentally drained – and yet the show goes on, for weeks on end.
It’s a testament to both the dancers, and choreographer Kally Lloyd Jones, that we believe in the contestants’ exhaustion as they dance round and round the stage endlessly – yet never tire of it ourselves.
Enough happens – some of it heartbreaking – to keep us hooked throughout, while the vocal ability of Scottish Opera soprano Nadine Livingston, as showgirl Anna Fontaine, and live six-piece band sound accompaniment both serve to entertain and appal with their jollity.
There may have been something fundamentally wrong about watching the original dance marathons, but this show most definitely deserves an audience.
Until 26 August.
More info: Dance Derby is at Paterson’s Land
Originally published in The Scotsman