For their 29th incarnation, MovEnt's Dances for a Small Stage decamped from their longtime home at the Legion on Commercial Drive and took up residence this past Thursday through Friday at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre on East 10th. Not only did that mean I could walk to the event secure in the knowledge I would get in (another innovation of Artistic Producer Julie-anne Saroyan coming in the form of advance on-line ticket purchase), but should I have wanted to I could have also purchased a steaming plate of perogies. But as Saroyan announced in her curtain speech, everything else was the same, not least the series' signature 10 X 13-foot stage.
In addition to the dance quotes supplied by emcee James Fagan Tait as mini-entr'actes, props were a theme in last night's offerings, as was the use of voice-over text. Leading things off was Lara Barclay in the first of two excerpts from James Gnam and plastic orchid factory's post_v2.0. I reviewed the first version of the full-length work here. It was interesting to see some of the piece's signature effects reworked, including Barclay's manipulation of piles of tulle in such a confined space, which from my perspective at the back of the auditorium had the uncanny effect of accentuating and extending almost beyond belief the arabesque that she uses at one point to lift the material off of her body. MACHiNENOiSY's Daelik was next up, also with pliable material in tow, in this case several shiny metallic sheets which he proceeded to sculpt into little silver android-like shrubs. Waving a final single sheet in front of himself as he pivoted behind the privet hedge he had fashioned, Daelik eventually laid down upstage and dismantled his work, covering himself in the sheets. Just when I thought things were getting a bit tedious, we got the coup-de-théâtre we'd been waiting for, as Daelik rolled and flipped horizontally across the stage, the metallic sheets flying off of him in a gorgeous shimmery molting.
Dayna Szyndrowski and Elisa Thorn win the award for the most innovative improvisation of the evening, combining tap, live harp music, and recorded voice-over from Nina Simone to create an ode to the freedom of movement (acoustic and kinetic) in open to somebody else. Then it was back to another excerpt from post_v2.0, this one featuring Sammy-Jane Gray, Bevin Poole and Lara Barclay again in Gnam's witty take on the corps de ballet from Swan Lake. In their saucer-like tutus, in or out of unison, whether rising elegantly on demi-point or bending to show us their behinds in a Miley Cyrus-esque twerk, these swans cannot fail to delight. The final piece on the first half of the program was Jean-François Duke's Eva... solo for Jean. The choreography, tied very explicitly to a song by Marie-Jo Thério, was a bit too pantomimic for my liking, but there is no denying that Duke, here from Quebec City in part to learn from and export Saroyan's small stage concept to la belle province, is a gorgeous mover.
First up following intermission was Kirsten Wicklund's Ancient Lace, which started as a fairly conventional pas de deux for Wicklund and partner Hayden Fong--until the gender roles of pursuer and pursued were rather cleverly upended. And, as always, it is eye-opening to see classical ballet lifts transported to such a confined space. Julianne Chapple's sea/unseen is set to an audio loop of voices talking about near-drowning experiences; unfortunately I couldn't see the first half of Chapple's evocation of the watery murk we were hearing about, as it was mostly confined to floor work. She does get vertical near the end, but only after first removing her white shift and underwear and dunking them, along with her long mane of hair, into a bucket of water on the stage. A bit too mimetic, perhaps, but the watery spray coming off of her hair as she then spun about was nicely captured and amplified by the light.
After a quick mopping of the stage came Farley Johansson's in Bipedicularity, which is as apt a title as I can think of for Johansson's explosive mix of contemporary, hip hop, and acrobatic movement. Breaking horizontally, suspending himself vertically, and just generally defying the laws of gravity, Johansson's virtuosic display of sharp, sudden, hyper-fluid energy was a reminder that a small stage doesn't mean you can't think (and do) big. Finally, the evening ended with co-curator Karissa Barry's evocative "the last part of the beginning, starting at the end," a duet for Barry and Jessica Wilkie that had them both in Tara Cheyenne-like goggle and hoodies, confronting the apocalypse with precise unison and non-unison movement.
A rich evening of dance. I look forward to what's in store for number 30.