Velvet Petal revels in beauty and sexual passion (4 stars)

Velvet Petal reveals in beauty and sexual passion

Fleur Darkin's choreography for Scottish Dance Theatre combines commercial swagger and a more rigorous contemporary expressionism

Inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe and the tumbling energy of DIY creativity, Scottish Dance Theatre's Velvet Petal is a high-octane celebration of youthful optimism and desire. The soundtrack and lighting scheme suggest a late night party, slipping between routines suggestive of clubbing and more intimate interludes: the dynamism and impressive technique of the dancers driving a sense of urgency and ecstasy.

Like the scene that Mapplethorpe emerged from, Velvet Petal is self-consciously hedonistic, and revels in beauty and sexual passion. As the dancers play with costumes, they invent new personalities, forge new identities, only pausing towards the end to consider the consequences of living at full tilt. The final scene – a single man alone in a bedroom, posing himself like an elegant corpse – counters the enthusiastic joy with a poignant loneliness. There is a darker undertow to the pleasure, but this is hidden beneath the ferocious energy and funky moves.

Fleur Darkin's choreography combines commercial swagger and a more rigorous contemporary expressionism. The spoken interludes add purpose and focus to the dancing, although they are occasionally overwrought with the confidence and self-importance of youth. The dancers dance in an ensemble, but the effect is like a series of solos as they are more concerned with their own self development – or metamorphoses – than forging connections.

The impact of Velvet Petal is bracing, reiterating the motif of how personality can be changed as easily as a suit: the score, including tough rock from PJ Harvey and a punky disco arrangement by Torben Lars Sylvest, echoes the pulsating lust for life that animates the characters. Accessible and intense, Velvet Petal evokes a long lost optimism about the possibility of self-invention, and mostly occludes its darker consequences.

Seen at Tramway, Glasgow.

Scottish Dance Theatre: Velvet Petal

Scottish Dance Theatre’s new work inspired by the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.

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