because the personal is cultural
1. Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure) / Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (M2M), Trajal Harrell + Thibault Lac + Ondrej Vidlar (Festival TransAmériques)
American choreographer Trajal Harrell’s work has always been impressive if only for its sheer ambition (his Twenty Looks series currently comprises half a dozen shows), but Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure) is his masterpiece. In the most primal way, he proves that art isn’t a caprice but that it is a matter of survival. Harrell and dancers Thibault Lac and Ondrej Vidlar manifest this need by embodying it to the fullest. The most essential show of this or any other year.
2. ENTRE & La Loba (Danse-Cité) & INDEEP, Aurélie Pedron
Locally, it was the year of Aurélie Pedron. She kept presenting her resolutely intimate solo ENTRE, a piece for one spectator at a time who – eyes covered – experiences the dance by touching the performer’s body. In the spring, she offered a quiet yet surprisingly moving 10-hour performance in which ten blindfolded youths who struggled with addiction evolved in a closed room. In the fall, she made us discover new spaces by taking over Montreal’s old institute for the deaf and mute, filling its now vacant rooms with a dozen installations that ingeniously blurred the line between performance and the visual arts. Pedron has undeniably found her voice and is on a hot streak.
3. Co.Venture, Brooklyn Touring Outfit (Wildside Festival)
The most touching show I saw this year, a beautiful portrait of an intergenerational friendship and of the ways age restricts our movement and dance expands it.
4. Avant les gens mouraient (excerpt), Arthur Harel & (LA)HORDE (Marine Brutti, Jonathan Debrouwer, Céline Signoret) (Festival TransAmériques)
wants&needs danse’s The Total Space Party allowed the students of L’École de danse contemporaine to revisit Avant les gens mouraient. It made me regret I hadn’t included it in my best of 2014 list, so I’m making up for it here. Maybe it gained in power by being performed in the middle of a crowd instead of on a stage. Either way, this exploration of Mainstream Hardcore remains the best theatrical transposition of a communal dance I’ve had the chance to see.
5. A Tribe Called Red @ Théâtre Corona (I Love Neon, evenko & Greenland Productions)
I’ve been conscious of the genocide inflicted upon the First Nations for some time, but it hit me like never before at A Tribe Called Red’s show. I realized that, as a 35 year-old Canadian, it was the first time I witnessed First Nations’ (not so) traditional dances live. This makes A Tribe Called Red’s shows all the more important.
6. Naked Ladies, Thea Fitz-James (Festival St-Ambroise Fringe)
Fitz-James gave an introductory lecture on naked ladies in art history while in the nude herself. Before doing so, she took the time to look each audience member in the eye. What followed was a clever, humorous, and touching interweaving of personal and art histories that exposed how nudity is used to conceal just as much as to reveal.
7. Max-Otto Fauteux’s scenography for La très excellente et lamentable tragédie de Roméo et Juliette (Usine C)
Choreographer Catherine Gaudet and director Jérémie Niel stretched the short duo they had created for a hotel room in La 2e Porte à Gauche’s 2050 Mansfield – Rendez-vous à l’hôtel into a full-length show. What was most impressive was scenographer Max-Otto Fauteux going above and beyond by recreating the hotel room in which the piece originally took place, right down to the functioning shower. The surreal experience of sitting within these four hyper-realistic walls made the performance itself barely matter.
La crème de la crème of Quebec celebrities (Sébastien Benoit) and their children (Sébastien Benoit’s child) were at the Bell Centre Wednesday for the first of a four-day run of Ice Age on Ice.
The show begins with a squirrel finding an acorn. He buries it in… something and a rocket goes off. Follows a parade of the main characters of Ice Age on Ice: a sloth, a male and a female mammoth, two possums, a cougar, and their monkey friends. Though the dialogue is in French, all the songs are in English, so they sing “It’s your birthday / Happy birthday!” to mister mammoth in a surreal scene, like if one witnessed the 1990 live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ice skating. (Did they do that yet?) The cougar’s back legs are paralyzed, but luckily they slide easily against the ice. The mammoths are also held up by wheelchairs, so it’s nice that there’s a positive message against ableism.
Comes the triggering factor: the aforementioned acorn stuffing caused a volcano to wake up and it’s threatening to wipe out our heroes’ party with its lava. The sloth recalls a legend about an icy berry that freezes everything it touches, which seems like a rather simplistic solution to global warming. This gets exemplified by a dozen abstracted glittery snowflakes with Mohawks and a bird who spin to show they’re happy about the cold, which lets us know they’re not from Quebec. As the show is aimed at children, it’s not surprising to notice some slapstick, like when the sloth tries to catch a snowflake with its tongue and falls down. Children love to see people fall. Adults do too, but only when it’s not on purpose.
So our heroes decide to go on a hunt for the icy berry in order to throw it in the volcano and freeze it over. The lady mammoth stays home though because that’s where women belong. There is also the inevitable complication in the shape of a female fox who wants the berry for herself because it would allow her to remain frozen in youth because women are vein and don’t care about being burned alive by lava just as long as they look good all the while.
Enters a squirrel who is also female, which we know because she is limp-wristed, waves her arms around a lot and wears makeup, as lady squirrels do. She’s an acorn-digger who needs a male squirrel so he can give her his nuts because she can’t get them herself. Her boobs get in the way. Except that mister squirrel realizes he lost his nut and has a psychotic breakdown in what is by far the highlight of the show. He hallucinates sixteen acorns dancing around him in what can be best described as a psychedelic drug trip.
Then there’s the Zamboni. No, wait… It’s just the mammoth’s big ass! I love fat jokes.
Anyway, they get the frozen berry, the fox tries to steal it but fails by losing it in a hockey match and apologizes for her behaviour. She’s surprised that our heroes would still want to hang out with her, which is understandable because what a sausage party!
But then it turns out that two possums ate the frozen berry. Why our heroes would leave the life-saving berry to animals who were clearly not aware of their plan is beyond me, but it doesn’t matter because it becomes obvious that the berry has no magical powers since the possums don’t turn to ice. Take that, magical-thinking solution to global warming!
That’s when mister mammoth has an idea: what if they caused a snow avalanche that would put out the volcano by jumping up and down? (Does this even make sense scientifically?) He asks his lady what she thinks and she replies that she believes in him because she’s a supportive woman with no opinion of her own. I’ll let you guess how it ends.
The show follows a simplistic structure: plot, figure skating, plot, figure skating, ad nauseam; like if Xavier Dolan was into the Ice Capades instead of slow motion. As with stories in contemporary dance, the two fail to connect in any meaningful way. All we perceive is the poverty of dance as a storytelling medium. Do we really need stories to make us swallow everything, including figure skating? There’s something almost patronizing about it, like Ice Age on Ice is just using characters kids already know and love to shove figure skating down their throat. As Spice World already pointed out back in 1997, it doesn’t matter what happens. Hell, nothing even needs to happen. All we need are those recognizable faces and we’ll eat it up.
Ice Age on Ice did give me a few ideas as to how contemporary dancers could make more money though:
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