Sunday, November 10, 2013

Getting a Sense of Wen Wei Dance

There were some truly sublime moments in the second half of last night's performance of Wen Wei Dance's 7th Sense, presented by DanceHouse at the Vancouver Playhouse: Ballet BC alum Alyson Fretz being pushed and pulled and nudged and nestled by the other dancers at the outset, before leading them in a series of gorgeous sequential line movements that evoked images of Chinese dragons undulating and being shaken at a New Year's parade; choreographer Wen Wei Wang and performer Brett Taylor in a moving duet in the middle that featured stunning lifts and spins; and the closing duet between Taylor and Jung-Ah Chung (a tiny powerhouse of a mover) that ended memorably with Taylor on all fours and Chung perched on his back, both staring out at the audience.

However, the precision and control of these sequences were in sharp contrast to the general shapelessness of the group improvisations in between, with the inchoateness of the individual dancers' movements and their at times mystifying explorations of scenic space (in which one body might be firmly positioned in front of another, thereby obscuring the latter's movements) reading to me as too much filler. I get, from Wang's program note, that such contrasts were part of the exploratory process of building the work. And yet, while by no means do I think dialectical oppositions always need to result in synthesis, Hegelian that I am, I do prefer there to be some sort of sense-connection (cognitive and kinetic) between them that leads to a new form of perception.

Which is why I am also at a loss in figuring out how the first half of the work fits with the second. A compact 20 minutes, 7th Sense's first act appears to take its cue from Wang's efforts to infiltrate or insert himself between the rest of the group of dancers, massed to begin with upstage left. Oblivious at first, the dancers eventually turn on Wang (quite literally), encircling and threatening him with a series of cartoonish martial arts moves. A metaphor, perhaps, for the choreographic process. Whatever the case, I did learn at intermission that this opening was relatively new, Wang having scrapped his original concept after feeling dissatisfied with it at the work's premiere in Edmonton in February.

I am sure Wang will continue to refine the rest of the work as well, and I look forward to revisiting it again in the future--when I have no doubt my sense of what it will have become by then, and what it was now, will have changed.


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