Dance like nobody’s watching, or Dance like you’re not dancing

Seeing any exhibition at Rhubaba can feel a little like a tumble down an Alice in Wonderland-esque rabbit hole. The only clue that the industrial shutter door, on a residential street on the way to Leith, hides something more interesting than an average garage’s junk heap is the strange blend of sounds managing to break through onto the pavement. Plucking up the courage to follow the noises and step through the small, almost hidden metal door may be something like climbing through the Looking-Glass; you don’t quite know what may lie on the other side.  You certainly wouldn’t expect to stumble out an hour or so later with an uncontrollable Cheshire Cat grin on your face.

What confronts you on entering the current concealed show, ‘Dance like nobody’s watching’ is, in fact, a looking glass of sorts. The small space is made deceptively large by a mirrored wall, sandwiched between two dark hanging drapes. This art studio is disguised as a dance studio, but one with screens on all sides and beanbags and headphones slumped in front of them. It is a ballet studio, games room hybrid.  Which makes it entirely appropriate for the pieces and ideas contained within it, as this show attempts to blur the boundary between dance and everyday movement – between awkward shuffling and smooth performance. It is about the human body and personal space and how we are both afraid of intimacy and crave it.

The screens closest to the door are uncomfortable, and hovering near them feels a little like hovering on the edge of a dance floor, scared that you might make a fool of yourself. One resembles the recent viral hit ‘First Kiss’, but with boredom instead of intimate bonding, as two people hold each other in an awkward embracing pose, while close to the ground an unseen woman presses her fingers into holes in walls and her tongue into cracks on the ground.

Yet, moving into the space properly something changes – the initial awkward feelings are lost, to be replaced with something close to the elation felt when coats and inhibitions are put to one side, so uninhibited dancing can take the lead. Some of these films are just fun, pure and simple. Dominic Watson’s twinned screens, offering two not quite identical visions of the artist in an empty studio space, dancing his heart out, to a booming soundtrack of ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ is surely what everyone dreams some artists do in their alone time. It is impossible not to smile, or even perhaps to want to pull off your shoes and join in.

This exhibition is cleverly constructed, touching, heart-warming and fun. Some of it is sensual, some silly and some slightly unsettling, but it certainly leaves you wanting to spend less time suited and booted and more time turning up the music and turning a hotel double bed into a personal dancefloor.

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