When artists take over a public space, it's like watching magic. Not too long ago, a troupe of magnificent dancers choreographed by Steinvor Palsson and cellist Atzi Muramatsu roamed around the stone floor tiles of St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. They performed brilliant pieces that were to be seen for one day only and possibly never again. They flitted from one space to another and invited the audience along as moving spectators. It was a thing of beauty much like the Tibetan mandala sand sculptures that are meant to be enjoyed thoroughly in the process of creation and then to be relinquished as a passing attachment.
I came upon the incredibly ethereal dancing on a gray, wet day in Edinburgh. This church venue was retitled as "WHOLLY:Land." The 30-minute performance set to various pieces from cello and the humongous pipe organ that echoed throughout the cathedral. For this particular performance, Muramatsu composed "The Place of Gargoyles." It has never been heard before and may never be heard again. As well as the original work, the dancers performed to the classical pieces, Cello Suites D minor Sarabande and G major Prelude, both by J.S. Bach.
The iconic, well-used church sits in on the Royal Mile close to Waverley Train Station if you walk straight up several steep flights of ancient stony stairs. It's the mother church of Presbyterianism. Queen Elizabeth II recently granted the Order of the Thistle to Prince William, future heir to the throne, was replete with plumed hat and a thick velvet robe. Plenty of tourists stream in and out the High Kirk of Edinburgh, originally built in the year 854. (That's right, 854 -- three digits, not four, and way before the year became 1000!) The venue also holds regular church services, including the last Christmas service where Benedict Cumberbatch attended with then-fiancee Sophie Hunter,
The dance was part of a unique arts festival called SCOTS:Land, a recent tradition bringing a fresh dimension to an annual Scottish festival. It involves a mysterious meandering through Edinburgh's Old Town to chance upon music, dance, theatre and film. Participants spin a compass to get a invitations for one of 12 venues near the central National Museum of Scotland. You have no idea what you're in for.
As I was watching the performance, I was reminded of Michaelango's The Agony and the Ecstasy painting in the Sistine Chapel. The dancers trained their gazes and movements upward while flitting around in celebration to an unseen higher being. The uplifting cello and resounding pipe organ music was brilliant and eerie. The artistic combination was perfectly fitting for St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and I hope others get a chance to see such a thing of beauty again.