Ten years after his first Scottish Dance Theatre commission, Montreal-based Victor Quijada has returned with Second Coming – aptly titled not just as his second company piece, but because the work hinges on the idea of a double-take: is this for real, or is it all a performance?
At the beginning it’s played for real, the dancers in any-old clothes spinning the story that they’re just running random sequences before the piece starts. Actually, it’s all staged. Yet the moment they stop pretending to not pretend is unmistakable: the lighting dims, the dancers clump together like fugitives, arms probing the air and eyes scanning the stage – pure theatre. The rest of the work lurches between self-conscious episodes underlining their own artifice and more straightforward choreographic scenes in Quijada’s always watchable style, with its undercurrents of hip-hop and capoeira. These are far more successful: a misaligned duet, the man tilting vertiginously away from his partner like a satellite veering out of orbit; a brilliantly orchestrated trio to a mashup of three classical musical samples, the dancers’ contrasting phrases scratched together as if mixed by a DJ.
Also mixing its tone and messages is Winter, Again by Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren, which combines the dour emotions of a Nordic drawing-room drama, the sublime sorrow of Schubert’s Winterreise, Monty Python absurdism, a matter-of-fact voiceover and an ecological fable. That it hangs together at all is thanks to its recurrent imagery – the dancers making dramatic entrances through a back wall of streamers, a girl with a spoon, shotguns, a blinded woman, animal carcasses – and stylistic coherence: the dancers mime gestures and expressions like silent film stars, and keep arranging themselves into pictorial tableaux. Like the opening work, it’s a thought-provoking but uneasy mix of humour, brio and bafflement, engagingly performed by a very personable company of dancers.