There may be cooler, more esoteric venues on the Edinburgh fringe but Dance Base offers a history of consistent programming and artistic development that promises a good chance of quality, even if it can't guarantee it.
Playing daily (until 23 August) at the venue is Rosie Kay's Sluts of Possession, a duet in which she and Brazilian dancer Guilherme Miotto conjure states of heightened physical and spiritual experience. Dressed like 21st-century backpackers, but with their faces daubed in patterns of white paint, the two dancers enter the stage like creatures from a lost tribe.
Already they seem in a profoundly altered state – eyes focused somewhere very far distant, or very deep inside. And the 40-minute work that follows is a physical tour de force as the couple perform an anthropological compendium of trance or ritual dances. They stalk like stiff-legged feral creatures; they shuffle and grunt on all fours; they retreat into near-catatonic shivering, or eat up space in foot-slapping, arm-waving delirium. Its like all the primitive dances you've ever seen but with traces of western dance in there too, as Kay loses herself in a sequence of slow-turning pirouettes and Miotto leaps high into the air, over and over again.
The anthropological thrust of the work is reinforced by video projections from film-maker Louis Price, who splices together footage from around the globe of Tibetan monks, polar landscapes and tribal ceremonies. At times this is overlaid with scribbled, pixellated patterns that simultaneously evoke primitive paintings and modern digital art. At other times the dancers themselves become absorbed within the film's imagery.
All this material is viewed and placed through western eyes, and there's an argument in here about exoticism and colonialism (which chimes interestingly with Gregor Schneider's installation over at Summerhall). But it's not an argument that's fully articulated into a theatrical or intellectual arc. Within the small studio theatre at Dance Base, Sluts of Possession is an absorbing, fascinating encounter. But it's not yet a work that's ready to travel.
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This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk