because the personal is cultural
Going to Festival Quartiers Danses’s Programme triple at Cinquième Salle on Saturday night was like traveling to the past without experiencing nostalgia. The evening opened with Diane Carrière’s reconstruction of ABREACTION (1974), titled Et après… le silence for this version. What first strikes us is how far music for dance has come over the past forty years. Here it almost sounds parodic in its likeness to the cheaply dramatic scores for low-budget straight-to-video productions. It is even more dated than the affected modern movement. Dancer Sébastien Provencher, always reliable, uses all of his length as he extends his arms as far as they will go. Nothing to do about it though: isolated screams are always funny, no matter what they’re supposed to communicate.
Carrière joins Provencher for the second half of the piece. How satisfying it is to watch older people dance. It is unfortunate that Carrière was otherwise so precious with her material, refusing to shake off the music or the video footage that anchored Et après as a dusty historical document instead of truly resurrecting it to make it relevant for a contemporary audience.
Followed Victoria choreographer Jo Leslie with her duet Mutable Tongues. We’d already had the chance to see Leslie’s work at Tangente in 2011 with Affair of the Heart, an understated solo for Jacinte Giroux, a Montreal dancer whose speech and movement have been transformed by a stroke. Here again we found Giroux, this time accompanied by Louise Moyles, a dancer and storyteller from Newfoundland. Moyles walks into the room alternately speaking English and French. This self-translation makes everything she says sound phony. Giroux is lying face down on the stage, just outside the spotlight. She tells Moyles she’s had a stroke, but Moyles doesn’t listen, tells her to “get up” then to “lie down.” She is verbally abusive in a way that ableist culture is always abusive, even when it doesn’t use words, when instead of saying “get up” it just puts a staircase. We think of how choreographer Maïgwenn Desbois had subverted this idea by letting her neurodiverse dancers briefly choreograph her in Six pieds sur terre.
With its burnt orange dresses, black tights, and heavy reliance on theatre, Mutable Tongues also feels a bit dated, not to mention that it is even more didactic than Carrière’s piece (which used voice-over to bring up such topics as hand-to-hand combat and PTSD). It reminded me of Chanti Wadge’s The Perfect Human (No. 2), which found its inspiration in dancers answering the question “Why do you move?” A young woman had walked to the front of the stage and screamed “I move because I hate talking!” I would turn it around and say that I go see dance because I love when people shut the fuck up. That’s certainly when Mutable Tongues is at its best.
The evening concluded with Howard Richard’s Beaux moments, a piece for four women that was the most contemporary thing we got to see, though even then it was more akin to the beginnings of contemporary dance. There were moments that recalled Ginette Laurin’s work: the legs that were lifted while turning out at a 45-degree angle before the heels of the shoes thumped back down against the floor; the sideways lifts where a woman would throw herself under her partner’s arms so that she could lend on their thighs. However, Richard’s movement was less verbose and neurotic than Laurin’s. In the duets, the women also looked as if they were in each other’s way rather than working together. But even the electronic music and the costumes (black sleeveless dressed with red short-heeled shoes) had something of O Vertigo about them. There was also a solo set to Cat Power’s “The Greatest” that failed to fit with the rest of the piece as it flirted with the contemporary in a So You Think You Can Dance way.
The most positive aspect of the triple bill was the chance to see middle-aged women dance, including Estelle Clareton. But, if we were to base an opinion on this evening alone, we would be inclined to say that we’d rather watch older people dance rather than choreograph. Maybe La 2e Porte à Gauche had the right idea with Pluton.
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Tickets: 25$ / Students or 30 years old and under: 20$
My wish for the Montreal dance scene in 2013 is for Marie-Hélène Falcon to quit her job as artistic director of the Festival TransAmériques. I’m hoping she’ll become the director of a theatre so that the most memorable shows will be spread more evenly throughout the year instead of being all bunched up together in a few weeks at the end of spring. With that being said, here are the ten works that still resonated with me as 2012 came to an end.
1. Cesena, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker + Björn Schmelzer (Festival TransAmériques)
I’ve been thinking about utopias a lot this year. I’ve come to the conclusion that – since one man’s utopia is another’s dystopia – they can only be small in nature: one person or, if one is lucky, maybe two. With Cesena, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker showed me that it could be done with as many as nineteen people, if only for two hours, if only in a space as big as a stage. Dancers and singers all danced and sang, independently of their presupposed roles, and sacrificed the ego’s strive for perfection for something better: the beauty of being in all its humanly imperfect manifestations. They supported each other (even more spiritually than physically) when they needed to and allowed each other the space to be individuals when a soul needed to speak itself.
2. Sideways Rain, Guilherme Botelho (Festival TransAmériques)
I often speak of full commitment to one’s artistic ambitions as extrapolated from a clear and precise concept carried out to its own end. Nowhere was this more visible this year than in Botelho’s Sideways Rain, a show for which fourteen dancers (most) always moved from stage left to stage right in a never-ending loop of forward motion. More than a mere exercise, the choreography veered into the metaphorical, highlighting both the perpetual motion and ephemeral nature of human life, without forgetting the trace it inevitably leaves behind, even in that which is most inanimate. More importantly, it left an unusual trace in the body of the audience too, making it hard to even walk after the show.
3. (M)IMOSA: Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church (M), Cecilia Bengolea + François Chaignaud + Trajal Harrell + Marlene Monteiro Freitas (Festival TransAmériques)
By mixing post-modern dance with queer performance, the four choreographer-dancers of (M)IMOSA offered a show that refreshingly flipped the bird to the usual conventions of the theatre. Instead of demanding silence and attention, they left all the house lights on and would even walk in the aisles during the show, looking for their accessories between or underneath audience members. Swaying between all-eyes-on-me performance and dancing without even really trying, as if they were alone in their bedroom, they showed that sometimes the best way to dramatize the space is by rejecting the sanctity of theatre altogether.
4. Goodbye, Mélanie Demers (Festival TransAmériques)
Every time I think about Demers’s Goodbye (and it’s quite often), it’s always in conjunction with David Lynch’s Inland Empire. The two have a different feel, for sure, but they also do something quite similar. In Inland Empire, at times, an actor will perform an emotional scene, and Lynch will then reveal a camera filming them, as if to say, “It’s just a movie.” Similarly, in Goodbye, dancer Jacques Poulin-Denis can very well say, “This is not the show,” it still doesn’t prevent the audience from experiencing affect. Both works show the triviality of the concept of suspension of disbelief, that art does not affect us in spite of its artificiality, but because of it.
5. The Parcel Project, Jody Hegel + Jana Jevtovic (Usine C)
One of the most satisfying days of dance I’ve had all year came as a bit of a surprise. Five young choreographers presented the result of their work after but a few weeks of residencies at Usine C. I caught three of the four works, all more invigorating than some of the excessively polished shows that some choreographers spend years on. It showed how much Montreal needs a venue for choreographers to experiment rather than just offer them a window once their work has been anesthetically packaged. The most memorable for me remains Hegel & Jevtovic’s The Parcel Project, which began with a surprisingly dynamic and humorous 20-minute lecture. The second half was an improvised dance performance, set to an arbitrarily selected pop record, which ended when the album was over, 34 minutes later. It was as if John Cage had decided to do dance instead of music. Despite its explanatory opening lecture, The Parcel Project was as hermetic as it was fascinating.
6. Spin, Rebecca Halls (Tangente)
Halls took her hoop dancing to such a degree that she exceeded the obsession of the whirling dervish that was included in the same program as her, and carried it out to its inevitable end: exhaustion.
7. Untitled Conscious Project, Andrew Tay (Usine C)
Also part of the residencies at Usine C, Tay produced some of his most mature work to date, without ever sacrificing his playfulness.
8. 1001/train/flower/night, Sarah Chase (Agora de la danse)
Always, forever, Sarah Chase, the most charming choreographer in Canada, finding the most unlikely links between performers. She manages to make her “I have to take three boats to get to the island where I live in BC” and her “my dance studio is the beach in front of my house” spirit emerge even in the middle of the city.
9. Dark Sea, Dorian Nuskind-Oder + Simon Grenier-Poirier (Wants & Needs Danse/Studio 303)
Choreographer Nuskind-Oder and her partner-in-crime Grenier-Poirier always manage to create everyday magic with simple means, orchestrating works that are as lovely as they are visually arresting.
10. Hora, Ohad Naharin (Danse Danse)
A modern décor. The legs of classical ballet and the upper body of post-modern dance, synthesized by the athletic bodies of the performers of Batsheva. These clear constraints were able to give a coherent shape to Hora, one of Naharin’s most abstract works to date.
Scrooge Moment of the Year
Kiss & Cry, Michèle Anne De Mey + Jaco Van Dormael (Usine C)
Speaking of excessively polished shows… La Presse, CIBL, Nightlife, Le Devoir, and everyone else seemingly loved Kiss & Cry. Everyone except me. To me, it felt like a block of butter dipped in sugar, deep fried, and served with an excessive dose of table syrup; not so much sweet as nauseating. It proved that there’s no point in having great means if you have nothing great to say. Cinema quickly ruined itself as an art form; now it apparently set out to ruin dance too. And I’m telling you this so that, if Kiss & Cry left you feeling dead on the inside, you’ll know you’re not alone.
Ceux qui voient la danse comme un sport ont raison de se réjouir cette semaine. La jeune compagnie de Vancouver The 605 Collective est en ville. Les cinq interprètes de leur tout dernier spectacle, AUDIBLE, font dans la vitesse et renforce l’idée du danseur comme athlète. Roulements au sol desquels on se relève rapidement, pivotements dans les airs, lancements au sol; tout est fait pour impressionner le spectateur… mais à un seul niveau.
À pousser dans cette direction, The 605 Collective réussit à faire certaines trouvailles côté mouvement. Il y a cette entrée en scène dramatique, les cinq danseurs propulsés hors des coulisses. Il y a ce pied placé sous l’estomac du partenaire qui semble soulever son corps entier. Il y a cette menace de lancement au sol lorsqu’un danseur soulève un autre, mais où la victime dans sa descente abrupte demeure tout à coup figée dans les airs (en fait sur les cuisses de son agresseur).
AUDIBLE a plusieurs qualités. Le choix de costume de départ, des complets, a pour effet d’activer le corps urbain – que l’on est plus probable d’imaginer assis devant un ordinateur. Les relations entre les cinq danseurs (trois hommes, deux femmes) sont d’égal à égal et non définies par le genre. Avec une forte dose de dynamisme, on fait aussi une très bonne utilisation de l’espace.
Il y a au moins autant de défauts. On pourrait démontrer plus de créativité côté éclairage. L’humour est naïf. La structure est rudimentaire : on commence en grand, ça se calme dans le milieu, et on revient (du moins on tente) en trombe pour la finale. Ça donne l’impression qu’on a essayé de cacher le moins bon dans le milieu, une décision stratégique, mais il aurait quand même été plus sage de s’en débarrasser complètement.
Quant à ceux qui aiment leur danse avec un peu plus d’esprit, ils s’en trouveront déçus. Même l’œil peut se tanner quand le cerveau n’est pas tout autant stimulé. AUDIBLE, c’est de la danse pop corn… Ça saute partout, après trois poignées on n’en veut plus, et quinze minutes plus tard on a encore faim.
19-23 avril à 20h
Billets : 29$ / 30 ans et moins : 22$
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.
s.verstricht [at] gmail [dot] com