Crowds go ape for zoo dancers 118

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By Martin Couper

VISITORS to Edinburgh Zoo might get a shock when they see its newest and most dangerous animal attraction – humans.

As part of a Fringe show, five performers will live in an enclosure originally designed for penguins for the next 11 days.

And yesterday, as the species was unveiled, crowds gathered at ‘Enclosure 44 – Humans’ to watch them in their new habitat.

The group – from the Janis Claxton Dance School – will not speak to each other during their time in captivity instead using movement to communicate and interact.

New arrivals, Skye Reynolds, Vikky Stewart, Libby Charlton, Kirki Kyrkou and “alpha female” Janis Claxton danced around in the pyjamas as their zookeepers fed them a breakfast of chopped up fruit.

Artistic Director, Janis, originally from Brisbane, Australia, says she came up with the idea after observing different species of animal.

In that time, she noticed distinct similarities in the way humans and animals behave.

She said: “I have been researching animal behaviour in relation to human behaviour for the past year-and-a-half. During this process, I saw this empty enclosure and I thought it would be a fantastic idea.

“I found many similarities. Some of them are in relation to the primates. Our ability, and the primates’ ability to use tools, to use gesture as a form of expression, to have emotional experiences, to be able to be involved in compassionate behaviour, but also devious and cheating behaviour.

“The performance is an exhibition of human behaviour through movement and the art of dance.”

But while Janis is hoping this experiment raises the profile of dance in Scotland, the choreographer is equally concerned with increasing awareness of the need for animal conservation.

She said: “The statement I’m focusing on is to do with conservation and particularly attention to the primates. I’m hoping that people will realise through watching our performance how connected we are to the Great Ape. We are in the same super family as the chimpanzees.

“It’s particularly important in 2008 because of the great need in this world to address many of these issues. And I’m also hoping that many people will start to see the art of dance and movement and beautiful means of poetic expression.

“It’s these two points of expression and conservation.”

Jon Morgan, Director of the Fringe, believes that the innovation of shows such as Enclosure 44-Humans is proof that the Fringe is diverse and cutting-edge.

He said: “The wide range of shows that connect with current issues in our world demonstrates that the Fringe is an incredibly flexible platform for artists. The Fringe was founded on the principle of open-access for all performers and it continues to be the best place to showcase new work.”

During their stay in Enclosure 44, the performers will be treated the same as the other animals in captivity.

Visitors to the zoo can observe their interaction within the habitat and watch as the newest attraction are fed by their own personal “Zoo-Keepers.”

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