Thursday, March 3, 2011

Life Lived as a Sentence

Random thoughts on Life Sentences, Peter Bingham's mixed program for EDAM last night at the Roundhouse, on through this evening as part of this year's Vancouver International Dance Festival:

1. Sentences on life: I was pleasantly surprised by the recorded text (along with video, and of course EDAM's always amazing music/soundscapes and lighting design--yay James P.!) that preceded several of the pieces. Though not always the case, I generally see Bingham's work--and contact improvisation more generally--as eschewing any overtly narrative or storying impulse. And, indeed, last night the connections between the choreography and the spoken text were by no means explicitly evoked. Still, for each piece we were given some sort of external frame through which to view the dancing (starting with Chris Randle's photo retrospective outside the performance space, which captures many shots of EDAM dancers, both older and newer).

2. Sentencing life: Captivity and time were major themes subtending the entire program (foregrounded especially by James Proudfoot's tight spots in the third and fourth pieces), and as the aesthetics of dance are all about repetition, the work of moving bodies over time, it is hard not to read much of this material as a reflexive (and retrospective?) commentary on a life of/in dance. It was all very Proustian.

3. Live bodies as sentences: For me, the thrill of Bingham's contact improv has always been watching the dancers fling their bodies at and toward each other with such abandon, only to land upon and/or receive each other's weight with such lightness and delicacy and grace. If I can employ a typographic metaphor, in Bingham's work bodies often start out in a given sequence as exclamation marks (and verticality is important here), only to finish as question marks, dipping toward the floor, or rolling over another's rounded back, asking "Where do we go from here"? This was most in evidence in the first and last pieces on the program, with James Gnam and Farley Johansson reinventing the laws of gravity in the duet Right in Front of You, and then being joined, at the end of the evening, by Alana Gerecke (yay Alana!) and Stacey Murchison for the closing quartet Release Me. Capture and release were certainly in evidence in many of the lifts and jumps on display here, and it always boggles my mind the degree of trust needed to accomplish some of Bingham's moves. Blind back flips by Alana into James' outstretched hands--that's a statement you don't want to have too much doubt about!

Life Sentences was preceded by a free show by battery opera, featuring Artistic Director Lee Su-Feh and Victoria-based dancer Chung Jung-Ah being each other's private dancer in public. What amazing movers they both are.


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