because the personal is cultural
From March 25 to 27, dancer Anne Thériault will fill Ashlea Watkin’s shoes (and mask?) in Nicolas Cantin’s Klumzy. Here is what I had to say about the show when I saw it at Festival TransAmériques back in June.
Spectacle. “Spectacle,” Ashlea Watkin repeats throughout Klumzy, as if to remind us that nothing should be taken at face value specifically because everything is face value. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s ironic since, as usual, show producer Nicolas Cantin does as little as he needs, giving us the opposite of the spectacle, antitheater. By saying the word, Watkin is transforming the context into content.
The same could be said of Cantin’s presence onstage in this mostly-solo quasi-duo. It is as if he does not want us to forget that, while the show might be biographically about Watkin, it is his show and therefore is just as much about him. Maybe even more so. Watkin tells us that she used to be into Aerosmith, but that’s not the music Cantin plays on his laptop. When he plays punk rock, he’s the one dancing along to it, not her.
By being onstage, Cantin is refusing the purity of biography. “It’s an image,” Watkin says. On a small square screen, a picture of her is projected. “It’s an image of me.” She might be talking about the picture, but she could also be talking about her live body, also mediated. “It’s me.” It is while wearing a mask of an old bald man that she is looking at her picture, creating a distance between the self and its representation at the same as she blurs the line between them.
The recording of her voice has been manipulated, possibly speeded up, has a higher pitch certainly, has been chipmunked, rendered childlike. There is again a distance created between Watkin now and as a child – introducing the idea that maybe our memory should not be fully trusted – as well as a blurring between the two. That we dialogue with our selves only proves the inconsistency of said self; otherwise it would speak with a single voice.
There is always something off in Cantin’s world, courtesy of aforementioned antitheater. Watkin speaks into a microphone, but she’s whispering. She’s doing so at the back of the stage, her back turned to the audience. Her microphone is on a stand, but she’s holding the stand sideways, so that it’s not resting on its legs.
Wearing her mask – deceptively realistic, especially in soft light – she keeps opening her mouth slightly, as though chewing. The effect is unsettling. We know it’s a mask, and yet our mind constantly lapses into viewing it as a real face. To qualify as realistic, something has to be fake.
At the end, Atkin pulls on a string to make the front legs of a chair hover slightly above the floor. This is as much magic as Cantin is willing to give us.
March 25-27 at 8pm
Tickets: 32$ / Students or 30 years old and under: 24$
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