because the personal is cultural
A month ago, I wrote that I go see dance because I love when people shut the fuck up. Yet last night I was ready to completely backtrack on this statement. It just goes to show that, with art, there is never any definite set of criteria that one can judge a work by, that art is chemistry that produces as many reactions as there are elements and audience members.
The occasion was Belgium-based American choreographer Meg Stuart’s unmissable return to Usine C with her solo Hunter. Her father was a community theatre director, she will tell us. As a result, she witnessed a lot of bad acting as a child, so she swore she’d never speak onstage. And for the first hour of this 90-minute show, she doesn’t.
Treating her body as an archive of dance and memories, she moves in the style that has made her a contemporary dance icon. The collage aspect of the work is underlined incessantly, from the actual collage Stuart is making sitting at a table (and projected onto a screen at the back of the stage) at the beginning of the show to the sound collage by Vincent Malstaf and the video collage by Chris Kondek. I hear you loud and clear.
It might be this aspect that most deters from the work. Like the soundtrack that moves through sound clips as though someone were switching through radio dials and never settling on any one channel, Stuart never sticks with anything for long, making us feel like we’re looking at a dancer improvising in the studio as she maintains a steady pace that comes across as manic. We want to tell her to calm down, to stand still for a moment.
In her last show seen in Montreal, Built to Last, Stuart had touched on the ephemeral nature of dance by contextualizing it within a set that included a giant mobile of our solar system and mock-up of a T. rex skeleton. However, even though the set is also imposing in Hunter, it still replicates the blankness of the black box. In effect, it is like the table upon which Stuart does her collage: a rectangular blank surface on which beams are scattered around (like the pins used for her collage) from which rolls of fabric hang and are used as screens for the video projections. As a result, Stuart’s dance is decontextualized.
What a welcomed change it is when she finally speaks. She maintains the stream of consciousness trope used throughout the show, but we do want to hear what she has to say about her life, about art, about anything. She’s Meg Stuart. She can speak onstage as much as she wants and we’ll listen.
October 13-15 at 8pm
www.agoradanse.com / www.usine-c.com
Tickets: 38$ / Students or 30 years old and under: 30$
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