With La Playlist, choreographer and musician Delphine Véronneau is offering a show that will look familiar to fans of Frédérick Gravel: a cabaret with eight dancers, musicians and actors performing 14 little bubbles that don’t last more than 4 minutes each. As mistress of ceremony, Véronneau is just as charming as Gravel, though more earnest, which could at times be a bit cringe-worthy to more cynical audience members. Even if you’re a sad gay like me and the upbeat and exuberant musical cabaret numbers don’t do it for you, La Playlist moves along at a fast pace and, in but a few minutes, a new bubble will appear that will most likely charm you as much as its creator.
Here, the performers still create characters, but the world never follows suit. Instead, as can be seen in their insistence on facing the audience, they are merely performing for us. With the loud buzzer that periodically interrupts their performance, they appear like contestants on a reality TV show pathetically vying for our attention.
The show relies on excess (seven performers are onstage for the entire eighty minutes) but, rather than helping in making a particular environment emerge, this merely leads to distraction. Our eyes travel from one to another, noticing that some are merely moving not to be still during the main action and that the three cymbal players look the way I do when I hang out at a bar just hoping someone will take me home so I can get the fuck out of there. These musicians become a too easily accessible exit.
At the FTA back in 2008, I’d accused Marie Chouinard’s obnoxious Orphée et Eurydice of suffering from Middle Child Syndrome. I could say the same of De marfim e carne, which is funny because Freitas cites the myth of Orpheus as an inspiration in the program. Perhaps the artistically gifted Orpheus is ironically performance kryptonite. Maybe those who killed him could hear his so-called divine music after all.
During the show, I also thought about Nicolas Cantin. Last week, I saw his Philippines at the OFFTA. Cantin is definitely not for everyone, but artistically I admire his work, which seems perpetually concerned with figuring out what’s the least that one can do on a stage. I sometimes find myself wishing some shows, De marfim e carne being a perfect example, were doing less.
With its constant “let me entertain you” attitude, it sometimes seems like the show is striving to be a critique of the vacuity of entertainment culture. 1) Yes. 2) And…? 3) Where’s the critique? Because, with its lack of bite, De marfim e carne doesn’t seem to critique so much as to be complacent about the vapidity of entertainment. If anything, it capitalizes on it. It is the artistic equivalent of overconsumption.
Yet, when the dancers come back for an encore, i.e. the worst concert ritual, it seems like they must know they’re acting like the worst. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
June 3 & 4 at 8pm
Place des Arts – Cinquième Salle
Tickets: 39$ / 30 years old and under: 33$
Once they have completed their task, Gayer takes his position behind the console and Lourdais molds the wires left in the corner with his feet. There, he gathers himself, first resting his hands on his ribs, then on his pelvis. When he is ready, he walks backwards to the opposite corner, so slowly that I have time to notice an insect also walking on the stage in the distance. From my perspective, Lourdais is facing me and moving away; to the other half of the audience across the room, he has his back to them and he is getting closer. When the sound becomes so loud that it begins to be painful, Lourdais shakes while I use the ear plugs that were given to us upon entrance. We come to expect the same sluggish pace as in Milieu de nulle part, Lourdais’s last show.
But no. Once Lourdais has crossed the stage, he switches gears, goes back to the regular speed of a task-based approach as he slides all the wires across the floor with one push – he just laid them down! – and Gayer takes his shirt off before lying down on the ground in their place, a microphone by his face. Lourdais takes the nest of wires and buries Gayer under it. This tableau takes place in relative silence, but I don’t remove my earplugs. I can hear my tinnitus and my breathing, like I’m wearing a diving suit. It seems appropriate for Lourdais’s work. I can also hear Gayer’s amplified breathing. It sounds as loud as mine.
Once Gayer has rolled out of his hiding place, Lourdais pulls on one of the wires until it snaps and he falls back with a scream as the lights go out. He taps his shoes against the floor so forcefully it almost looks like flamenco. His arms sway by his side as he walks in a style that’s reminiscent of Broadway. And then there’s something of Flashdance in the way he displays his body as he flies past the audience on both sides of the room. “Want some ‘real’ dance?” Lourdais seems to say. “Well, here it is!”
With each section of La chambre anéchoïque, Lourdais metaphorically lays down his wires before yanking them out from under us, requiring the audience to constantly get used to a new register. Whether these breaks strengthen the work or weaken it is a question each audience member can only answer for themselves.
June 2-4 at 9pm
Tickets: 34$ / 30 years old and under: 28$
In this colourful dump, performers can disappear without leaving the stage or fall from considerable heights without hurting themselves. It is a post-apocalyptic world of overconsumption that lies before us and they are doomed to live in it. They may be able to choose from thousands of articles of clothing, but the choice is unappealing; it’s the only one they have. Their movement translates as play that spurs from idleness, which even comes across as the source of their masturbation and dry humping. They don’t even have the internet.
Every once in a while, unexpectedly, the performers cease their dicking around and break into beautiful song. In juxtaposing the music of Bach with a garbage dump, a thematic kinship emerges with Meg Stuart’s Built to Last (FTA, 2014): how is it possible that the species responsible for this post-apocalyptic mess also created such divine music? As the performers live out the last moments of life on earth in slow motion, we think there might be something redeeming about these creatures after all.
May 29-June 1
Monument-National – Salle Ludger-Duvernay
Yes, Gladyszewski does invoke magic by concealing bodies in darkness, like when Martin Bélanger’s arms appear out of nothingness from behind a strip of light and float in the air. The image recalls Brice Leroux’s Quantum-Quintet (FTA, 2007) and Cindy Van Acker’s Obtus (FTA, 2011). Half-seen, the movement becomes inexplicable. Lights in the sky are a familiar sight; it’s only when they move in unexpected ways that we suspect alien life. It’s for this reason that I’m less convinced by the voice work of the performers, decidedly too human.
For the most part, however, Gladyszewski uses technology to reveal what is always there but which usually goes unseen. Such is the case with cameras that reveal the heat patterns of the human body and of the liquids it comes in contact with. Suddenly, it’s like we’ve entered a psychedelic world where the human body is turned inside out, a world of tie-dye souls and auras as moving skins. The body becomes as malleable as playdough, liquefies before our very eyes. We are witness to the com/motion of the dis/embodied internal. Our bodies are haunted by spirits whose life force is muffled by their shells. It’s otherworldly, yet the internal landscape laid before us is so recognizable that I was tempted to scream, “This is the real world! The world where our bodies appear to be solid is obviously a lie!”
And I was completely sober. That’s why you should see Phos.
Place des Arts – Studio O Vertigo
Tickets: 29$ / 30 years old and under: 23$
First off, let me say that I’ve only been following choreographer Daniel Léveillé’s work since 2006. I’m mentioning this because, though Léveillé’s style remains just as recognizable in Solitudes duo, there are also some noticeable departures, at least to those of us who’ve only been following him for the past decade. Like Mathieu Campeau and Justin Gionet drawing circles with their hips in the first duet, which comes across as downright flirtatious. Léveillé’s choreography looks a little less cold and mechanical, a bit more theatrical.
When Ellen Furey looks up to the ceiling, her eyes are so expressive as to look frightened. For a moment, her interaction with Gionet is even messy; not as a result of the effort required, as is usually the case in Léveillé’s work, but in its very performance.
One could blame the music – which so easily colours our perception of the dance – for these changes. Léveillé predictably goes for Bach and Royer, but surprisingly slips in some classic rock (The Doors and The Beatles). It’s not just the music though. The dance is more languorous. While there must have been duos in Léveillé’s group works, I don’t recall anything ever looking this… coupley. Brianna Lombardo and Emmanuel Proulx hold hands and use all of the resulting arms’ length as tape to wrap around their partner.
Since Léveillé’s movement seems based on an aesthetic rather than on its effect, there’s usually some incidental humour that slips into the choreography. Not so here. We have to wait until the last duet with Campeau and Esther Gaudette to find some humour and it’s calculatedly funny. For starters, the dance is set to The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Given how much Léveillé capitalizes on lifts and gravity, that choice can only be qualified as a joke. As if that weren’t enough, the dancers headbang, make the devil sign, and thrust their hips. How ironic that the more Léveillé’s dancers have clothes on, the more sexual they act. Sometimes, it looks like it could have been choreographed by Virginie Brunelle.
Solitudes duo is, like all of Léveillé’s work, a dance of every moment; there is no climax. Yet, when it ends, it still manages to feel a bit too short.
May 26-28 at 9pm
Agora de la danse
Tickets: 45$ / 30 years old and under: 38$
Israeli choreographer Arkadi Zaides is that mirror in Archive, a demanding but necessary performance presented by Festival TransAmériques. Zaides took a series of video images from B’tselem, an Israeli center for human rights in the occupied territories, only selecting excerpts featuring Israeli men, no doubt to avoid speaking for or against the Other.
Zaides pauses the video, espouses the position of one of its protagonists, spins it 180 degrees, mirrors it, flips it by 90 degrees, leaning against the floor to give us the view of the top of his head, like the one the camera gives us by hovering above the protagonist. Archive is challenging because of its subject matter and its clinical approach, the live dance performance being overshadowed by the video images.
When it does work, it’s because of the confrontational attitude that necessarily emerges given the source material, as Zaides walks towards us with aggression in his eyes (the audience is visible throughout the show as the house lights, though dim, remain on) before switching to the movement of a man waving his arms around to try to scare sheep away. Before us, humans become animals that need to be displaced. Zaides often returns to this movement.
Archive is at its most powerful near the end, when Zaides replicates the vocalizations of the men in the videos into a microphone, looping them, building a soundtrack that is increasingly oppressive and violent. It’s hard to bear even for a few minutes. Imagine for hours, for weeks, for years…
May 24-26 at 7pm
Place des Arts – Cinquième Salle
Tickets: 39$ / 30 years old and under: 33$
Things could have gone down a more simplistic road as, at first, Gutierrez and his partner Mickey Mahar (a sprite-like cross between Sufjan Stevens and Pee-wee Herman) dance synchronously non-stop as percussive music is blasting over the speakers, barely taking a break as Mahar slips a “2, 3, 4” in before launching into yet another dance sequence. However, it’s when they finally stop that the show ironically progresses. The music keeps going, just as loud, but they stand still – much needed rest – holding hands.
When I was young, I used to believe that two people of the same sex holding hands was a political gesture. Then, when I had my first boyfriend, I realized that it wasn’t political but merely natural, that it happens without thinking or even realizing you’re doing it, that your hand searches for the one you love. What I’m saying is, people holding hands are fucking beautiful and Guttierez and Mahar are fucking beautiful.
Slowly, their heads turn towards each other and they kiss. So we guess, anyway, since one of them has his back to us, so that they could be pulling a Will Smith in Six Degrees of Separation (but we can safely assume they’re not).
And the dance starts up again, in a way that could remind one of the choreography for countless female pop singers. The movements are not difficult to execute, but they become more impressive as they accumulate, playing like a physical version of a memory game. The clarity of and work behind the movement is retroactively highlighted as the dancers switch to a different mode of performance, one that reeks of drunk clumsiness. They display the kind of behaviour where, in the moment, one might be blissfully unaware (humping a speaker, for example); it’s only once you sober up that it’s going to be embarrassing. They also fight in a way that’s more meant to annoy the other person than actually hurt them.
In the spoken section, they impressively maintain their synchronicity even as they vary their speech in most comical ways. Particularly delightful is when they say, “We are the faceless, voiceless dancers. Do you want to fuck us?”
Unfortunately, Age & Beauty Part 1 ends with its weakest section. Though it decidedly brings us in a different direction, Guttierez’s breaking into song doesn’t fit with the rest of the work. Instead, it feels like a performer’s fantasy, one that has the added drawback of putting Mahar in the background, where he doesn’t belong. Still, Guttierez remains a refreshing voice in queer performance and dance at large.
Tickets: 34$ / 30 years old and under: 28$
has an MA in Film Studies from Concordia University, though he mostly writes about dance. He is a reporter and producer for the cultural radio show Quartier Général on CIBL 101,5 FM. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.
s.verstricht [at] gmail [dot] com