Steve Reich Project

If this was billed as Music and took place in a concert hall, the MP4 Quartet’s perfomance of three pieces by Steve Reich, Pendulum Music, Different Trains and WC 9/11 would earn five stars for their superb rendition, but confusingly this takes place in Dance Base, the Edinburgh home of contemporary dance and one can be forgiven for expecting rather more dance from the choreographer Isabella Soupart than this show contains.

Go if you want to hear Steve Reich’s music but maybe sit there with your eyes closed,

This is especially disappointing as the two latter pieces commemorate such horrific tragedies: Different Trains which compares the holocaust trains that took their inmates to the gas chambers to the peace-time trains in New York and the last piece, WC 9/11, the World Trade Center atrocity.

In the first piece, Pendulum Music, the dancer (Shantala Pèpe or Johanna Willlig-Rosenstein depending on the date you see it) plays with the long lead of a microphone, holding it out, stroking it, pointing it at the audience. Eventually she lets it swing (like a pendulum). The banality of this is breath-taking. This cannot be said of the little amount of dance she eventually performs.

In the second piece, the choreographer has given up even trying to create dance and the dancer is relegated to the role of stage-hand, moving the musicians’ stands round the stage, so that they have to follow her. I notice the stands wobbling which would make reading the score impossible, but luckily the musians know it well enough for this not to matter. This is not the sort of thought you want intruding during a performance, taking the audience out of the imaginative and musical moment. And the point of this moving around the stage? Some heavy-handed notion of moving suggesting trains moving? Whatever it signifies, it is irritating and detracts from listening. Apart from the brilliance of the music, the back screen is the only commendable part of this mixed media collaboration. Showing broken lettering, spelling out 'Different Trains', it is a visually affecting metaphor.

In the last piece, WC 9/11, the dancer at last performs a beautifully moving piece of choreography, turning round and round with arms outstretched as if someone falling from the towers. Inspired in its simplicity, it gives honour and dignity to the tragedy. Any more complicated choreography would bring attention to itself inappropriately. What a shame that this quality of sensitivity is not expressed in the other two pieces.

Go if you want to hear Steve Reich’s music but maybe sit there with your eyes closed, except for the last piece.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

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The Blurb

A truly trance-inducing performance inspired by three masterpieces from Steve Reich, interpreted by the new generation. A string quartet and a dancer will sweep you away in the powerful confrontation of dance and music amidst hypnotic images and soundscapes. Choreographer Isabella Soupart and the MP4 Quartet take on Pendulum Music, Different Trains (1989 Best Contemporary Composition Grammy Award winner) and WTC 9/11, bringing forth intimate reflections with worldwide historical drama. The Steve Reich Project is a pulsating fusion of dance, music and video art, a raw, deeply moving statement on the frailty of the human condition.

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