Salves, photo by Jean-Pierre Maurin
Salves, Maguy Marin (Danse Danse) Septembre 26-28
Because last time Marin was in town, it was back in 2007 with Umwelt
, which still holds as one of the best shows performed in Montreal this past decade. Prismes, Benoît Lachambre (L’Agora de la danse) October 16-19
Because Lachambre made quite the comeback last year with Snakeskins
, his best show in years. Henri Michaux: Mouvements + Gymnopédies, Marie Chouinard (Danse Danse) October 31-November 2
Because Chouinard’s last show, LE NOMBRE D’OR (LIVE)
, is the one that has had the biggest impact on me since performer Carole Prieur first translated Henri Michaux’s drawings into dance back in 2005. We can only imagine what it will be like when all the dancers of the company will follow in her footsteps. Cuire Le Pain De Nos Corps, Sarah Dell’ava (Tangente) November 21-24
Because Dell’ava is probably the most intelligent mover in Montreal. LA VALEUR DES CHOSES, Jacques Poulin-Denis (Lachapelle) January 21-25
Because Poulin-Denis manages to expose the absurdity of human life while remaining funny and touching. The Nutcracker, Maria Kefirova (Tangente) January 30-February 2
Because Kefirova is one of the few choreographers in Montreal who knows how to deal with video in live performance. The adaptation project, Michael Trent (L’Agora de la danse) February 12-14
Because the last time Trent was in Montreal, he surprised everyone by being as conceptual as he was playful. Reviens Vers Moi Le Ventre En Premier, Annie Gagnon (Tangente) February 27-March 2
Because she’s one of the few choreographers in Montreal who’s not afraid to be serious. Mayday remix, Mélanie Demers (Usine C) March 12-14
Because, with just a few works, Demers has managed to establish herself as one of the most consistently good dancemakers in Montreal and it will be a treat to see her revisit her past works before moving on to the next artistic stage in her career. Mange-Moi, Andréane Leclerc (Tangente) March 20-23
Because Leclerc’s contortionism isn’t just a circus trick; it’s a philosophy that allows her to approach and explore space differently. http://dansedanse.ca/DDA_1314/en/ http://www.agoradanse.com/en http://tangente.qc.ca/ http://lachapelle.org/ http://www.usine-c.com/
Levée des conflits, photo by Caroline Ablain
One dancer climbs onstage, wipes the floor with her hand until she is down on her elbows, shaking her ass, at which point another dancer walks up the stage and begins to wipe the floor. There will be twenty-four of them, performing the same series of twenty-five movements, over and over again. This initial canon allows the audience to travel back in time all depending on which dancer their eyes rest on at any given moment. This is Boris Charmatz’s Levée des conflits
It is in one way chaotic because of the sheer number of performers; and yet it isn’t because each is so clearly doing exactly what they should be doing.
And the first dancer begins to wipe the floor again, a loop is formed, and we understand: we are locked into this sequence.
There is something of Canadian experimental filmmaker Michael Snow in Levée de conflits
. Like in his movie Sshtoorrty
, in which the same simple short story is not only overlapped but repeated at least ten times. And yet each time the viewer notices something different since human perception is such that not everything can ever be all taken in at once; which is why when people say that, after a certain point, they “got it,” you know they didn’t get it because it’s simply impossible.
We can also think of his seminal film Wavelength
, a 45-minute zoom across a mostly empty loft. In terms of storytelling, Wavelength
is cheekily minimalist, but the celluloid is manipulated to such a degree that on a formal level it is so excessive as (again) to make viewers feel like they have always missed something. With its changes in lighting, no matter how seemingly few, the same could be said of Levée des conflits
And the variations occur. They perform the sequence while going in a circle in a space that progressively gets smaller. Time seems similarly condensed. Then they slow the movements down as they get even closer to each other. One could also be reminded of Michael Trent’s conceptual show It’s about time: 60 dances in 60 minutes
, in which dancers repeated the same sequence of fifteen actions four times, each action first taking a minute, then fifteen seconds, then three minutes, then a minute again. Levée des conflits
might be less playful than It’s about time
, but more ambitious in scope.
Then some of the dancers can be seen performing the sequence backwards, until they are all wiping the floor. And the cycle begins anew, abandoning the canon in favor of synchronicity. The choreography’s simplicity gets exposed, and yet it’s also more pleasurable. What is it about synchronicity? Is it because deep down we’re all order-loving fascists? Is it because it gives us something the universe doesn’t? The illusion of control, no matter how trivial?
We exit Levée des conflits
the same way we entered it, like the characters in Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel
. It will have taken an hour and forty minutes to complete the cycle, but it will be with a feeling of resolution so logical that it might induce chills. I usually try to avoid saying such platitudes, but hopefully the advantage is that when I do say them you know I mean it: Levée des conflits
is the best dance show that’s been presented in Montreal this past year. May 30 & 31 at 8pm Place des Arts – Théâtre Jean-Duceppe www.fta.qc.ca 514.844.3822 / 1.866.984.3822 Tickets: 48-58$ / 30 years old and under: 43-48$
Birds with Skymirrors, photo by Sebastian Bolesch
The human body is fragmented by light until it becomes unreadable as such and it becomes a poetic body, a body that means something other than itself.
Having seen Lemi Ponifasio’s Tempest: Without a Body
at Festival TransAmériques two years ago, I went into his new show, Birds with Skymirrors
, knowing what to expect. Even though I was tired, I didn’t drink coffee before the show because I felt caffeine might interfere with my experience. Thank God, because Birds
is even more meditative than its predecessor.
It even feels like a dream, simultaneously meaningful and elusive; slow, yet slippery. It helps that Ponifasio is an expert at achieving otherworldliness from the get-go, with his creatures in long black robes, moving across the stage in small steps so swift they seem to float. With their synchronized movement, they still seem to function as a single entity. Unlike in Tempest
, however, here they do not appear to be threatening.
The dream-like state is also induced by unlikely juxtapositions, like when a bare-chested man slowly moves while holding his hands behind his back, making his torso look torturous, while we can hear astronauts communicating over radio. (Maybe the dream is about how, while men were busy trying to reach the moon, they prevented this oil-soaked pelican from flying?)
Other similarities with Tempest
abound. The set and costumes are entirely black, and the only lights to reveal the action are being reflected off those surfaces. It’s goth as shit.
The three women are wide-eyed, with shaking hands, while their bodies remain sinuous. It is the performers’ arms that do most of the talking, turning the dance into a ritual. Ponifosia doesn’t mind making his performers cover the stage in white powder for 5 to 10 minutes, and that’s what makes Birds with Skymirrors
so hypnotic. May 29-30 at 8pm Place des Arts – Théâtre Maisonneuve www.fta.qc.ca 514.844.3822 / 1.866.984.3822 Tickets: 43-58$ / 30 years old and under: 38-53$
Markus Öhrn's Conte d'amour, photo by Robin Junicke
“We’ve been waiting for you, daddy.” –Anders Carlsson, Conte d’amour
“Am I in love? –Yes, since I’m waiting.” –Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse
If you want love, pure love, get yourself a dummy. Sure, when you feed them chips or make them drink Coke, it will all just fall to the floor, but that’s precisely what you want. The absence of thirst and hunger means that they will never, ever leave you.
In Markus Öhrn’s Conte d’amour
, the other is a blank canvas onto which we can project our love, so that it can never find itself soiled by the other’s own velocity, since it has none. (I once wrote, “On veut la projection qui nous échappe par sa propre vie.”)
Of course, a dummy might not fulfil all of your desires. So, alternatively, make sure that, if the one you love is human, they are as dependent on you as possible. It might be infantilizing, of course, but this works in your favour. Children are less likely to leave you than your adult partner. To make their leaving even less likely, bring them McDonald’s. Under the right light, those fries and nuggets can really look golden.
“Everything is simpler in Thailand,” a character tells us. “Thai women are not as troublesome as Occidental ones.” This is the moment at which Conte d’amour
becomes more than just a play loosely based on a sordid news story. This is the moment when in one fell swoop it becomes political by exposing the relationship between racism, sexism, and capitalism. The statement is of course naïve. What makes one less troublesome has nothing to do with race or gender. It has to do with one’s economic dependency. Eve was not made from Adam’s rib. She was made from his wallet.
If you want love, pure love, do make the dependent one feel like they have some power. Withhold your attention so they feel like they have to earn it. Let them turn a basement beam into a stripper pole. If they can seduce you, they must have some power. Ignore the fact that their survival depends on it.
The saviour comes down from the ceiling as though from a helicopter, bringing chips and Coke to his grateful African children. Maintain the system that keeps them dependent on you, but let them feel like you’re being good to them when you give them the bare necessities of life.
The lover comes down from the skies, bearing gifts, to save us from the catastrophe zone that our single lives were, before they came along. To keep the other dependent on you, it might be best to make sure that they are satisfied with little. Like maracas. “Gifts… and the feelings that come with them.”
The sequestered children even have a video camera. It gives them the illusion of agency, like they are not just objects, but subjects shaping their own reality. They are not just victims. They are witnesses of each other’s victimization.
And yet, “I am a victim!” shouts that guy from Portlandia
, who plays the only female character in the play (which probably should have ended on that powerful note). For the loved becomes owned by the lover, becomes the screen against which the projection (love) violently lands.
During Conte d’amour
, I kept thinking that it was like witnessing an extreme version of Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse
. Except that, rereading my notes, I realized that I kept using “the lover” and “the loved” to refer to all of the characters, no matter if they were the kidnapper or the kidnapped. Maybe Barthes forgot that love can also be a form of Stockholm Syndrome. May 28-30 at 7pm Théâtre Rouge du Conservatoire www.fta.qc.ca 514.844.3822 / 1.866.984.3822 Tickets: 43$ / 30 years old and under: 38$
Beauty Remained..., photo by John Hogg
When the city of Montreal advised its population not to drink tap water because it might be unsafe, a friend living in Turkey wrote on Facebook, “We don't drink tap water here at all. We order big fat 19 liter jugs of water that are delivered by men who carry six of them at once on their scooters while talking on their cell phones with no helmet on. True story!”
One of her friends replied, “In Guatemala, we get water from the guy that delivers them by foot, 3 at a time up the hill. Guatemalans are badass! You can also get them from the tuk-tuk guy if you live in a remote area, by remote I mean on the other side of the street.” Yet another person chimed in: “It's exactly the same in India.”
The first comment had been, “Yep, water is seriously taken for granted in Canada.” And maybe that’s the problem with beauty. It’s what we take for granted. It’s not less present. It’s just less noticeable.
When one of the seven dancers in Robyn Orlin’s Beauty Remained for Just a Moment Then Returned Gently to her Starting Position…
asks, “God, have you found your own beauty?”, the question could be understood in at least two ways. It could be about God perceiving Himself as beautiful, which would not be an irrelevant question if one believes that Man was made in God’s image. It could also be about beauty being not perceived by the mind, but produced by it.
We rarely talk about it, but it’s not always human beings that fail nature; sometimes it’s life that fails us. Sometimes there is no sun, literal or otherwise, and we must shine a light of our own and pretend. That’s probably when human beings are most beautiful; when they refuse to submit to the arbitrary ways of the universe.
This is but one of the many things we accomplish with art. We compensate. We make up for the lacks of the world.
A performer jumps up and down and asks, “Sun, can you jump like this?” It is often hard not to feel small in the face of the cosmos. But what if we didn’t think in terms of size or quantity or time, but in terms of qualities? No, the sun cannot jump like this. Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. It is also in the body of the mover. May 23 & 24 at 8pm Monument-National – Salle Ludger-Duvernay www.fta.qc.ca 514.844.3822 / 1.866.984.3822 Tickets: 43-48$ / 30 years old and under: 38-43$
Maybe someday I will find the words. Until then...
Pale Water (Première Partie), photo by Simon Grenier-Poirier
Three choreographers, three pieces, three Canadian cities. Pale Water (Première Partie), Dorian Nuskind-Oder (Montréal)
At first, but a backlit silhouette against a white screen.
Then, neon strips are positioned on six sides around Nuskind-Oder, with gaps in between, so that the eye can read a hexagon, an octagon, a dodecagon, or a simple triangle depending on the lines that are lit or extrapolated.
Many dance shows have live musicians onstage. Pale Water
does something cheekier: it is as lighting designer that Simon Grenier-Poirier is onstage.
Nuskind-Oder’s movement is quiet, slow, deliberate. Her body is controlled until it appears to be in suspension.
I don’t want it to be over. Falling Off the Page, Jacinthe Armstrong (Halifax) Falling Off the Page
begins with one dancer’s hand seemingly controlling the other dancer’s foot, like a puppeteer and her dummy. This is the first in a long series of clichés:
-They wash their hair in pots filled with water in a purifying ritual.
-They travel along a road made of light (after first appearing in a square prison of light).
-They unroll a paper carpet along the lit road.
-They dip their hair in paint and drag it across the paper.
-They look back at the road travelled.
One redemptive quality: it is not uncommon for dancers here to jump in the air and let themselves fall heavily back on the ground; in Armstrong’s choreography, the dancers instead jump into the air and let their limbs float up so that for a second they almost seem to fly. La petite mort, Maryse Damecour (Québec)
Original movement emerges when a physical constraint is added to an otherwise common gesture, like when Brice Noeser walks on all fours, but with his hands covering his face so that it is his elbows that are dragging him across the floor. It is always refreshing when a choreographer is preoccupied by something other than beauty, when the dance is allowed to be delightfully awkward, and not without humour. La petite mort
revels in abrupt transitions and, when it pretends to be joyful, it’s laughable because it rings false.
It is always a treat to watch Noeser, who has such a distinct corporality, move. www.tangente.qc.ca www.delicatebeast.com http://damequidanse.com/
When We Were Old, photo by Adrienne Surprenant
“I bring you somewhere.”
If you’re going to follow her, truly follow her, you need to trust her.
Choreographers Chiara Frigo (Italy) and Emmanuel Jouthe (Québec) might hold hands with fingers interlaced, but it’s the only codified gesture you will find in When We Were Old
. It is their starting point, a sign of trust and desire for true connection, from which anything can happen. Their relationship and the movements that stem from it are not predetermined. They are not playing roles. Their meeting is perpetual, occurs in each moment, like when they let go of each other, evolve independently, find each other again, and everything is to be done again. As a result, their meeting feels sincere.
It also allows the performers to bypass all kinds of contemporary dance clichés that often emerge as soon as a woman and a man are onstage. Their duet is neither coupley, nor antagonistic. It just feels honest. It is no coincidence that, after the show, my date told me, “I liked that she was never weak.”
Jouthe and Frigo are trying to build something together and, like the tree trunks they use as building blocks for her to stand on, the structure might end up making things shakier than no structure at all. And that’s okay. That’s the risk one takes in building a relationship or a dance.
Even the Marley that covers the floor is loose, not taped down, and can be unrolled or rolled up, allowing change and surprise. Beneath, a new floor might be revealed, or even a new costume. It is as malleable as their relationship.
Her movement is more spastic; his, more fluid and smooth. As they hover from side to side in opposite directions, they only ever meet for a brief moment in the middle. And that’s enough. By the end, it might even allow them to transform into dinosaurs among mountains made of chairs. It all depends on whether you trust them enough to bring you there. April 24-26 at 8pm Agora de la danse www.agoradanse.com / www.tangente.qc.ca 514.525.1500 Tickets: 28$ / Students or under 30: 20$
Chorus II, photo by Jasmine Allan-Côté
12 Apr (4 days ago)
Would you want to talk to me about your new show? Do you have time? (Preferably by email, but we could do it in person if need be. Or maybe even chatting?)
I hope all is well. xo
12 Apr (4 days ago)
Email is great:)
12 Apr (4 days ago)
You went from a "man free zone" in your last work [All the Ladies
] to an all-male cast for your new show, Chorus II
. Why the switch?
13 Apr (3 days ago)
I think it had to do with the subject matter (davening), which I remember my grandfather performing. He was a really tough guy, but when he prayed he could be so tender and meditative. I was interested in exploring that "energy" with a group of male dancers, as a way of remembering and re-writing my experiences of him.
13 Apr (3 days ago)
Your performers come from a variety of backgrounds: different schools; some are barely out of them, others have been dancing professionally for a while... It almost seems as though you handpicked them. Why these particular men?
13 Apr (3 days ago)
When I first started working on this piece it was for Piss in the Pool, and I knew I wanted as many men as possible. I wanted it to be a counter-point to the twelve-women choreography I made for the pool two years earlier. I basically wrote every male dancer I knew, as well as a bunch I barely knew who were recommended to me by friends. Anybody who said "yes" was in the choreography (not the most professional method but it worked amazingly). Most of those original dancers are still in the work.
14 Apr (2 days ago)
Since you bring it up, you have been working on it for a while... I always admired you for your rigor, so I have to ask: how do you manage to maintain interest in one piece for such a long period of time? How has it changed over time?
14 Apr (2 days ago)
Oh man, it is hard to stay rigorous! It isn't hard to stay interested, but it's hard to stay committed to the thread of the work and not diverge into ideas that are outside the particular choreography I am making. It helps to have collaborators who can also see the themes of the work pretty clearly; they keep you on track. The interpreters (Benjamin Kamino, Milan Panet-Gigon, Nate Yaffe, Lael Stellick, Simon Portigal, and Frédéric Wiper
) are amazing for this, they all have their own experience and perceptions of the work, and if they feel like we have strayed too far from the universe we have created they will tell me. Working with a perceptive outside eye is also really integral. For this piece I have worked with three (Thea Patterson, Andrew Tay, Ginelle Chagnon), all of whom have pushed me to retain and clarify the voice of the work.
It also helps to be feel a bit possessed by the work:)
14 Apr (2 days ago)
During the public performance following your residence at Usine C, one of the dancers let his partner fall a bunch of times. Based on their interaction after the show, I assume that wasn't supposed to happen. Question: have you been experiencing massive amounts of guilt or was it their own fault?
14 Apr (2 days ago)
That's a hilarious question. Um, no I don't feel guilty. I am a pretty paranoid choreographer, I am constantly asking the dancers if a movement feels safe to them to execute, to a degree that the dancers have point-blank told me is very annoying. So, I had asked them about that part repeatedly before the showing, and afterwards when I asked the dancer if he was okay he basically laughed at me.
15 Apr (1 day ago)
One last question... After you presented Chorus II
at Piss in the Pool, I compared it to Édouard Lock's work (mostly just because of the black suits the men wore). I used the word "emptied" ("un Édouard Lock vidé de ses muses féminines"), which I now realize sounds pejorative, but I really meant it as a compliment. Do you hate me?
23:44 (15 hours ago)
No, I love you, you know that. I was kind of like "fuck, my work looks derivative!" but that's okay. Can't let Locke corner the market on men in suits. Anyways, it's all good, we are good:) April 18-20 at 8pm & April 21 at 3pmMAIwww.m-a-i.qc.ca514.982.3386Tickets: 22$ / Students: 15$
Collective Individual, photo by YUL.
“I fear embodying the absence ethnic war has left around me.”
A legitimate fear if there is one. While only Zohar Melinek can speak of the emotional toil that the performance of Collective Individual
takes on him, we can say that, though he is not a trained dancer, his performance is visibly felt and therefore honest; qualities that more than compensate for any lack of technical training.
He benefits from the help of his partner from their collective Thirst/Clarity, dancer Mary St-Amand Williamson. She too seems to be more concerned with sincerity of purpose and emotion than with physical virtuosity. All the better for the subject at hand, the recent revolutions in the Arab world.
The strength of the choreography is not in the symbolism of its gestures, but in the constraints they impose on the body and which differentiate it from so many others. The floor work stands heads and shoulder above the rest, like when they slowly move with their feet and head weighing them down against the floor, but their ass high in the air, triangular shapes that make their movement difficult.
On the other hand, it is at its weakest when the symbolism is obvious (and therefore I must admit on the cheap side), like when Williamson is seemingly locked between four walls made of light. The physical constraints cease to be embodied and temporarily turn the performance into little more than bad miming.
While a minimal amount of synchronicity is necessary for any social movement to effect change, here the choreography would be richer if the performers had less recourse to it. The movement is simple (delightfully so) and the eye would have benefited from constantly shifting between this simplicity and the density of juxtaposition.
Video images of the uprising only make two brief appearances, but each time the live performers get swallowed by the mass of protesters. One can only imagine how powerful Collective Individual
would be if it could represent live the energy of a sea of people and the wave they inevitably embody.
The show ends with its most compelling sequence, Melinek and Williamson noisily moving while being lit by nothing but the projector projecting nothing. It confirmed my sneaking suspicion: the whole show could have taken place in that darkness.
The world premiere of Collective Individual
was, like any good revolution, imperfect, but promising. April 5 & 6 at 8pm MAI www.m-a-i.qc.ca www.zoharmelinek.com vimeo.com/user4058531 514.982.3386 Tickets: 22$ / Students: 15$