Felt

The Scotsman - - REVIEWS - KELLY APTER

The first time we ac­tu­ally see dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Elisabeth Schilling, her per­for­mance is over. Be­fore that, we’ve only ex­pe­ri­enced her, in a myr­iad of ways.

First, Schilling is en­cased in a box, a black rec­tan­gle that moves across the floor seem­ingly of its own ac­cord. Were this a show for chil­dren, it would be met with peels of de­lighted laugh­ter – but given the sin­is­ter sound­track ac­com­pa­ny­ing it, there are no smiles from the au­di­ence. Not yet, any­way, but that’s just around the cor­ner.

Tucked against a wall, Schilling slowly emerges from her in­car­cer­a­tion, but re­mains hid­den from view by huge swathes of black felted ma­te­rial. From there the images come thick and fast as she ad­vances through the space; one mo­ment she re­sem­bles the Grim Reaper, the next an oil spill. Is that a foot push­ing against the fabric or her skull? Stretched out across the floor, Schilling’s body al­most dis­ap­pears – then be­comes gi­ant-like as she reaches up to the gallery ceiling, her long train equally rem­i­nis­cent of bridal wear and a rep­til­ian tail.

All the while we move around the gallery to ob­serve and, at times, avoid her. Schilling’s sud­den scur­ries have a child­like joy­ful­ness you can’t help but laugh at, es­pe­cially when we have to fol­low suit to move out of her way.

We may not see the woman her­self dur­ing Felt (she fi­nally emerges smil­ing at the end to greet her warm ap­plause) but Schilling’s fas­ci­nat­ing mov­ing sculp­ture helps us see fabric in a whole new light.

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