Review: Papillon

Mesmeric experimental hip hop dance show

dance review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
34030 large
Photo by Hoi DoPhan
Published 18 Aug 2023

Three dancers pulse under the beat of the lights. Underscored by an almost overwhelming, electronic bass played live on drums and synths, they start to move across the stage. Each seems to be mapping out their own trajectory like planets, moving through their independent revolutions, occasionally colliding. These are bodies orbiting through space with majesty and command that is nothing short of awe inspiring.

Papillon translates as butterfly, but the title here is misleading. There are no flapping wings or transformation metaphors. Instead there is an intense hour of exploration through rhythm and shape to a constantly shifting sound landscape. There is no pause, it's a relentless display of physicality and virtuosity. The choreography fuses contemporary with hip hop, yet the final form is harder to define as it is so based within the dancers own improvisation.

As an ensemble, the musicians and dancers of the We All Fall Down company feel linked, even while seemingly engrossed in their own movements. Helen Simard's direction is bold and self-knowing as each individual's flow runs through and into the others like river tributaries carving and connecting through rock. 

The choreography is inspired by chaos theatre and equations – and for those of us who might not know what that means, it can all feel very clever and earnest. However, the magic of Papillion is that although it is clearly constructed with deep intellectualism and gravitas, it's in your bones and gut that it truly hits.