Edinburgh Fringe Review: Black Grace

What is it called?

Black Grace, Presented by Creative New Zealand, Choreographed by Neil Ieremia.

Where and When can I see it?

7.20 PM, until the 22nd August.

Central @ Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Pl., Edinburgh (Venue 139)

Should I?

Yes, run. Run over to the Roxy.

What’s it about?

Black Grace’ Artistic Director Neil Ieremia uses the Fringe vessel to present an abridged ‘best of’ Black Grace.

This season at Edinburgh they perform a collection of short works, from the new work Mother Mother, for Fat Freddy’s Drop dance-music video, to the figurehead piece Minoi (a celebration of Samoan culture).

What did you think?

Black Grace is really vital. I have seen it twice and it holds its colour. This exhibition of accuracy, skill and style puts to rest any second hand accusations of ‘cool’ levelled at the dance community. Samoan slap dance brings fashionable contemporary down to earth.

As “a cultural experience” Black Grace is a humbling and unassuming presentation of heritage – as grace. Black Grace. I went there.

So anyway. Black Grace is really vital. Sometimes when I see dance I carry it into the real world with me. I find it hard to adjust. I find myself tip-tapping a little at traffic lights. My heart beats a little faster. I want to be a dancer sometimes, when I see dance. Since seeing Black Grace I feel refreshed – some happy little blood transfusion.

Over the course of an evening Nick Ieremia will introduce seven dances and he will introduce seven dancers. First, four males dance the Minoi. The company’s iconic performance is a robust contemporary response to masculinity, in Samoan culture and in general. It is primarily a slap-dance. In Samoan a slap-dance is called the Fa’ataupati. This is not cultural flyer-fodder, or to sell a ticket, the rhythm is universal. People have an innate sense of rhythm, even if you fooster around or somnambulate your way to the grave you touch base with tempo. In Black Grace the percussive body is an invitation. The audience keep the pulse of this system. The room shrinks.

Just like music, dance uses a structure known as canon. My friend Hannah recognised a lot of Christopher Bruce’ work in the choreography of Ieremia, I know what she means. The canons are there (fire the cannons!) and so is the colour. There is a tensile way of extending the leg, and lilting way of walking that exists in Black Grace and in Bruce’ Ghost Dances. Another comparison might be the muscular spectacles put up by Matthew Bourne. That stand out in the second dance Pati Pati, a seated dance. There are phrases that even look like they could be Edweard Muybridge stop-motion.

Like this.


Animal locomotion indeed.

Between the pieces, choreographer Neil Ieremia tells his story, and that of the company. It is a story a little about living, and if I’m forced to choose a theme it might be marginal Samoan life in New Zealand (beautifully illustrated to Bach in Gathering Clouds, one of the seven dances).

Ieremia shares anecdotes and opinions with careful, rehearsed comedy because he ‘couldn’t afford the program’. For a novice like me that’s lovely. I’m certain some snob out there has called him out for interrupting The Dance, but I like it. Plus, I saw him back stage with his dancers sweating bullets, and that felt endearing.

The soundtrack is interesting and unclichéd – from old Samoan hymns and new Kiwi beats to Jimi Hendrix’ wailing guitar. The design is dramatic. The colour is good – he has either great taste, or a great costume designer with great taste, or a great taste in costume designers. It may even be possible that he has all three.

His titbits contextualize the trajectory of this collection so I’ll let him do that when you go see him. I won’t tell you everything. Maybe that will entice you. Then like me you can sit in the Roxy and forget to breathe. You might feel inadequate. I did. You might feel exhausted. I did. As the quick bodies of the seven dancers twist, chop, jump high and land as if gravity forgot, I promise you, you will feel flabby and inadequate(and exhausted), but welcome. You will welcome it. You’ll worship a little, and at the end you’ll all stand.

How many yjet eejit?


Who are you?

I’m Colm.


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