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so precious with her material, refusing to shake off the music or the video footage that anchored Et après as a dusty historical document instead of truly resurrecting it to make it relevant for a contemporary audience.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.
514.842.2112 / 1.866.842.2112
Tickets: 25$ / Students or 30 years old and under: 20$
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