The festival begins with a collaboration between Walker, Orbital and a variety of contemporary dance troupes...

Scott Walker‘s MELTDOWN 2000 kicked off this weekend (June 17) with two performances of the explicitly named DANCE PROJECT, a collaboration between ORBITAL, WALKER and a variety of contemporary dance companies.

The first half of this “ferment of contemporary dance and music” was ‘Thimble Rigging’, a piece performed by the Richard Alston Dance Company and scored by Walker himself. Featuring the disembodied vocals of former Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser and a five-string electric cello, Walker‘s music alternated an unworldly, monkish medieval thrum with an almost industrial screen and drone, an experimental distortion that unsettled far more effectively than the “concept”. The programme notes merely stated that “during the medieval period people living in the villages of Europe who were afflicted with the skin disease psoriasis were commonly known as ‘The Silver People’“, leaving the spectator to connect film close-ups of thimble tricks, three people in green suits running through random spotlights, and two dancers in distinctly uncomfortable-looking silver mohair body stockings.

The hour’s interval needed to “set up the lights” gave some indication of what to expect from the second piece. Scored by Orbital and performed by noted all-female company The Cholmondeleys, it instantly appealed to audience members there for the music and spectacle (the clear majority) rather than dance experts. The Hartnoll brothers’ score seethed with a violence matched by the frenetic riot enacted by the dancers: obscenely low bass throbbed under increasingly hysterical beats and a sample of “please hang up and try again”, while the performers stormed through the spotlights, perpetrating gracefully symbolic violence.

While unlikely to be Meltdown‘s crowd-pleasing high, Dance Project certainly highlighted the event’s commitment to unique cultural experience. On those terms, Blur may have trouble matching it when they play on July 2.

Other acts forthcoming over the month-long series of events include Pulp‘s Jarvis Cocker and Smog on June 25 and Radiohead on July 1 .