Monday, February 18, 2013

Widening Gyres and Full Body Scans

In the famous opening stanza to W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming," we are told:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

I've found myself returning to these lines over the past few days as I've struggled to articulate here on this blog (not usually a problem for me) my response to Body-Scan: Sweet Gyre, a piece created by Lee Su-Feh (of battery opera) and Benoît Lachambre (of Par B.Leux), and performed last week as part of The Dance Centre's Global Dance Connections series. A work that, in the words of its choreographers, "recyles, re-uses, and re-imagines" elements from an earlier 2008 collaboration for six dancers, here Lee and and Lachambre--together with Jesse Zubot, who provides live musical accompaniment--loose the full panoply of their anarchic creative energies upon the audience. And if, like me, one cannot find a stable formal or thematic centre upon which to pitch one's interpretation of the piece, that doesn't mean one won't continue to turn and turn around in one's head its spiraling layers.

For me those layers are composed of contrasting movements and sounds and scales and textures and colours:

- Lee's slow, durational, pause-punctuated immersion of her body into the pile of sleeping bags downstage vs. Lachambre's jerky skittering of his chair horizontally upstage left to right

- or, later, Lee, now on the chair dressed in a sleeping bag skirt and vest, slowing wending her way to the microphone near Zubot in order to coo into it like a bird vs. Lachambre's manic flitting about the stage saying "I love you," the sound of aluminum clothes pins jangling in the pockets of his hoodie

- the double-sided sleeping bags themselves: vibrantly coloured on the outside when scattered on the floor, or strung together along a rope upstage; but turned inside out and affixed to a succession of step ladders of different heights, they reveal monochromatic portraits of the dancers in the original 2008 piece

- and, finally, the piece's closing tableau: blue tarpaulin pulled above the audience to fashion a synthetic sky, while below us, on stage, artificial turf is rolled out, upon which Lee and Lachambre, in custom-made outfits of oiled laytex, slowly turn and turn and turn

I couldn't always make sense of what was going on before me, but I always had some sort of sensory reaction to what I was witnessing. I was never less than fully engaged. Which is, after all, what one desires from live performance. As my friend and colleague, DD Kugler, said to me afterwards, we all owe a debt to artists like Lee and Lachambre, who in pushing the limits of what dance and performance is and can be, allow the rest of us to have room to experiment and play in our own very modest ways.

There is no lacking of conviction or passion in these two performers, and if drowning in the alchemical results causes our own aesthetic expectations to fall apart, we are the better for it.


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