Last year in Edinburgh, the official dance programme had an unusually local identity, with Scottish Ballet curating a packed four days of performances that included collaborations with Scottish Dance Theatre. 2014, by contrast, is geographically all over the place, the tone set by its opening dance production Inala, which features the South African a cappella singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo in choreography by Rambert's director, Mark Baldwin.
From what I've seen of Inala in rehearsal, it's almost perfectly tailored to Edinburgh – a show that draws on a wide dance and music audience, and better yet happens to be a world premiere, something unique to the EIF programme. The rest of this year's dance has an equally international spread, with a new work from New Zealand visionary Lemi Ponifasio, plus welcome revivals of Pina Bausch's Sweet Mambo (almost the last work she made) and Akram Khan's Gnosis, the 2009 piece that tracks his journey between classical kathak and contemporary dance.
Reading on mobile? Click to view Sweet Mambo trailer
But pleasing as these works are, they don't add up to the most memorable of EIF dance programmes and they fall collectively short of the golden seam mined by Brian McMaster, director of the festival between 1991 and 2006, who programmed a gorgeous succession of what were, then, relatively rare UK performances by the likes of the Mark Morris Company, San Francisco Ballet and the Martha Graham Company.
If dance has been slightly downgraded in recent EIF programmes, it's continued to improve on the fringe, with venues such as Dance Base, Summerhall and Zoo Southside now delivering consistently thoughtful, interesting programmes throughout the festival season.
This year sees a good spread of UK wide and Irish work – a snapshot of the touring dance year – with shows from Scottish Dance Theatre, Barrowland Ballet, Murley Dance, CoisCeim and Jo Fong (who appears as part of the Welsh dance strand). Le Patin Libre, the experimental Canadian ice-dance group, offer an audience-friendly preview of their Dance Umbrella debut this autumn, with their event at Murrayfield ice rink, featuring concentrated snippets of skating skill, followed by an all-inclusive skating party. Matteo Fargion, normally in duet with Jonathan Burrows, appears at Dance Base with Karl Jay-Lewin in the irresistible-sounding Extremely Bad Dancing to Extremely French Music.
Reading on mobile? Click to view Le Patin Libre video
Then of course there are the mavericks, the out-theres, the unknowns that are essential to the fringe experience. This year I'd pick, pretty much at random, Wonders of the Universe – a dance about the beginning of the world accompanied by the professorial words of Brian Cox; and a double bill by Teatro Delle Moire and Anna Nowicka that couples Elvis's Stardust – a fantasy about dead celebrity – with the teasingly, loopily titled solo The Truth is Just a Plain Picture, Said Bob. Recommendations, and reader reviews, all gratefully received below.
• Read our feature on Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Inala