because the personal is cultural
Yellow Towel is messy, and not only in the literal sense that the initially immaculate off-white stage becomes cluttered with props throughout the performance. It is hard to know by which end to pick it up because the edges are all blurred, like they’ve been rubbed off against one another until we are no longer sure what we are looking at exactly. Michel has constructed a show from deconstruction, like all the elements have been passed through a blender, so that it is hard to discuss any single aspect because none of them exist as such. So as I attempt to write about Yellow Towel, I feel it’s important to note that what I am talking about doesn’t even exist, that I am taking a fragment and dusting it off in order to better be able to describe it. However, that description is a lie because the dust is just as important as the fragment.
For these reasons, there is something of an exorcism to Michell’s performance, an unfiltered quality. Words and movements pour out of the body in a seemingly uncontrolled fashion, creating odd and often humorous juxtapositions. “In the beginning,” she might blurt out, but she’s not talking about the Word, though who knows… Her speech runs like an internal monologue, mostly incomprehensible to anyone who is not her, who does not know what fills the gaps.
Her body appears to be as uncontrollable as her train of thought. She is hunched over, constantly shaking. When she removes her black hoodie, Q-tips are stuck in her hair. She takes one of them to clean out her ear while blowing in a trumpet. She uses a tiny white blow-up pool as a couch, which molds her body into awkward positions as she clumsily attempts to drink milk, more running down her face than her throat.
The character she creates is also elusive. When she puts on a baseball cap, it maintains her hair over her face, rendering her anonymous. Never does she look at the audience, maintaining this internal world that we only get to peek at in the moments that strike us as potentially familiar.
It is easy to understand why the prestigious ImPulsTanz Festival created an award especially for Michel. Her performance is one of the most compelling we have had the chance to see in recent years. She fully commits to it, appearing like a medium whose body has been taken over by this strange creature. So, when she spends a few minutes slowly drinking from a bowl of water, we are there with her with the same intensity we would be were she actually possessed. The experience is as fascinating as it is hilarious.
December 4-6 at 8pm
Montréal, arts interculturels
Tickets: 25$ / Students: 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