Saturday, February 4, 2012

Push 2012 Review #13: After Trio A and Beginning at The Dance Centre

This year the PuSh Festival has once again partnered with The Dance Centre to present an international offering of challenging conceptual dance (see, as well, last year's "Sound Machine" by the Swiss-based compagnie drift). In this case, Croatian-born, Amsterdam-based dancer and choreographer Andrea Božić has brought to Vancouver two interdisciplinary works that also make bold use of video and sound.

In the first, and most interesting, piece, "After Trio A," Božić enters into a dialogue with one of Yvonne Rainer's most famous postmodern dance creations, "Trio A" (1966). Rainer's piece was made to accompany/illustrate her equally famous "No Manifesto," which announced her rejection of spectacle and virtuosity and sentiment and audience involvement and heroic imagery. Instead, "Trio A," with its simple pedestrian movements and straightforward presentation of the body in fluid relation with space (walking, running, stretching, bending, squatting, extending) sought to build a basic grammar of dance from processes of bodily recognition and repetition rather than theatrical absorption and transcendence. Božić's work actually shows the labour that goes into such simplicity by having two local dance artists (Anne Cooper and Claire French) learn a sequence of Rainer's choreography live in front of the audience, and then repeat the movement as best they can a number of times.

Watching a television monitor positioned downstage, French begins by tentatively hopping in place, chopping the air, lying down on the floor. With no access to the video itself, we have no way to judge how well she is doing. However, that is soon remedied when images of Rainer dancing her original choreography are displayed on one of two monitors mounted from the rafters. French now goes back and forth between the two screens in copying the movement, and we go back and forth between her live dancing body and Rainer's virtual one, the usual process of mimetic representation reversed in this case, and the out-of-syncness of the movement actually helping to frame and amplify each distinct gesture and step, as well as the pauses between them. This becomes even more the case when a live video feed of French's live dancing body watching Rainer's recorded dancing body is displayed on a second monitor.

But things don't stop there. At a certain point Cooper joins French on stage, her real-time instruction in the choreography coming from her watching and imitating of French watching and imitating Rainer. After a few circuits through the sequence together (which also include video artist Julia Willms coming on stage to juggle some glow-in-the-dark balls and sound artist Robert Pravda raising and lowering a stereo speaker attached to a pulley), the dancers then take successive solo turns repeating what they have just learned alone, this time without the aid of the Rainer video. Interestingly, Cooper was able to remember more of the choreography than French, and it was impossible, given the structure of the piece, not to interpret this in terms of of a dialectic of mediation and embodiment, mimesis and kinesis.

I was less taken with the second piece on the program, "A Beginning." It's another dialogue, in this case between Božić, as dancer, and Willms, as visual artist. Dressed all in white, Božić positions herself upstage, in front of a large white screen. As Božić starts very slowly to move, Willms, seated at a drafting table stage right, starts to trace her outline in black marker, which is then via another live video feed projected onto the screen. At first dancer and artist are more or less in sync and the residual outlined trace of Božić's body is recognizably anthropomorphic. But then Božić starts to play with Willms, either speeding up or slowing down her movements, going forward or reversing. The drawn shapes start to look distorted and grotesque. Soon enough, however, it is Willms who is playing with Božić, moving her paper back and forth, faster and slower, drawing spirals and lines that Božić must dance to, even colouring in the white clothes of her body. And if this is indeed a contest between artistic media, it has to be said that by the end of it Willms wins. For me, the piece is more effective visually than it is on the level of movement, with Willms emerging as a kind of Twomblyesque animator of the dancing body.

Božić and company continue at The Dance Centre through this evening, when Cooper and French will learn a whole new sequence of Rainer's signature work.


No comments: