Words by Stella Rousham.
And has a content warning related to abortion, miscarriage, strong language and nudity.
As I stepped out of Edinburgh train station several days ago, after a gruelling 6-hour journey from a parched and sweaty London, I was awe-struck by the immediate view and tone of this city – somewhere I’ve never visited before. The looming spires of Edinburgh Castle set high in the misty rain-specked sky caught me off-guard. I felt both disorientated and energised as Google maps sent me and my backpack trialling through the flyers, theatre-goers and winding, cobbled streets of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was not until a sat down to watch And, a new contemporary dance poem by Charlotte Mclean – a Scottish born graduate from London Contemporary Dance School and co-founder of dance band, The Yonis – that I felt like I had my bearings in this great city.
“Highland dancing was originally a preparation for battle”, Mclean explains to the audience as she deftly bounds across the stage, her emerald-green woollen kilt billowing, the soundtrack of bagpipes bellowing with her grandfather’s hand-crafted metal swords securely in hand.
A skilful assemblage of Scottish dance, organic contemporary movement, text, music and humour, Mclean’s solo traces the trajectory of womanhood in a nuanced, moving and joyful manner. Inspired by the memory of feeling overwhelmed in her early twenties and a simple text to her friend – asking if they could go and “dance tomorrow” – And, is a simultaneously autobiographical and deeply relatable. Grappling everything from the mundanity of Mondays, to the dread of completing your first tax return, to struggles for bodily autonomy and reproductive justice, Mclean delicately weaves spoken word, political commentary and personal anecdotes, with beautiful, eruptive pockets of dance.
Initially clad in full Scottish dance attire, which is shed to reveal a shimmery leotard, Mclean’s solo explores the tussle between the thrill of independence as she embarked on her dance training in London, to the fragility of identity and belonging in the wake of such monumental life changes. Standing alone, skin bare onstage, her hunched silhouette casting a shadow on the towering wall behind her, Mclean is courageous in her poetic examination of personal vulnerability, social expectation, ambition and loss.
Embodying, holding and examining the emotional waves of womanhood over the years, Mclean’s poetic movement undulates entrancingly, replicating the rolling terrain of the Scottish Highlands. Having just graduated from university and making my way alone – overwhelmed but excited – to Edinburgh, And resonated my own feelings of hope and vulnerability as I too seek to dance through my early 20s.
“McLean delicately weaves spoken word, political commentary and personal anecdotes, with beautiful, eruptive pockets of dance.”
And offers something to all audience members. It speaks to the continual search for belonging, for love, for ecstasy, for care, for rest, all whilst reminding the audience to find grounding in the simple things; listening to the rain and giving your nan a ring. I am excited and intrigued how this solo dance poem will evolve, as it too embarks on its own journey to new venues and audiences.
Header image by Amy Sinead Photography. Catch And at Dance Base from 16th – 28th August 2022, part of the Made in Scotland Showcase during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022. The solo will also be performed on 10th September 2022 at The Place Theatre, London. To book tickets please visit: https://www.dancebase.co.uk/festival-shows/and-charlotte-mclean-16-28-august-2181. To keep update with Charlotte Mclean’s work, make sure to follow @iamcharlottemclean on Instagram or visit her website at https://www.iamcharlottemclean.com/.