When your stage is the size of a football pitch and you’ve got all afternoon, you can afford to take your time. As the mist rolls off Arthur’s Seat, Christine Devaney’s company of dancers sit on their stools, alert but motionless. They cast a strange silence over Holyrood Park.
It could be the silence of lockdown isolation. This free Sunday afternoon event for the Edinburgh international festival has its origins in the choreographer’s yearning to dance with others again. She discovered she could do so away from the Covid dangers of the rehearsal studio by heading outdoors.
Her 100-minute piece seeks to express the sense of joyful collective release. When at last the dancers move, they slowly progress from solitary workouts, lonely and distant, to freeform communal celebrations, expansive and happy.
Greg Sinclair’s sax, flute and cello combo follow the dancers as they claim the vast space for their own. They run, spin, stretch and stride – and occasionally collapse to the ground. Seemingly from nowhere, they find placards to display. On one side, a mirror symbolising lockdown introspection. On the other, an outward-looking slogan: “Behold”, “Begin here”, “Point to the future” …
That future is represented in a second troupe of dancers, Edinburgh’s Lyra arts organisation for young people in a rainbow of coloured capes. They claim the territory, length by length, in a game of musical statues and remind us of the joy of playing together.
Some sequences have the discipline of Chinese communal exercises, others have an improvised fluidity. Sometimes they break off into smaller groups, at other times they take turns at solos. They make kites from plastic bags and enjoy a call-and-response with handbells. An hour in, they’re joined by a glamorous bunch from Dance Base’s Prime company for over-60s, wearing ballgowns and opera gloves, like they have escaped from a tea dance.
Repeated twice across the afternoon, il Curious Seed production is billed as a durational performance in which the audience can come and go as it pleases. To make an accessible celebration of public space is a nice idea, but taken in a single sitting, Field loses focus. A show about the joy of dancing rather than the prowess of any given dancer makes its point well before the end.