Karen Jamieson is a Canadian dance legend who has been making work under the imprimatur of the eponymous Karen Jamieson Dance for more than 30 years. This includes the legendary Sisyphus, named one of the ten Canadian choreographic masterworks of the 20th century. She was also an early pioneer in community-based dance and site-specific dance, bringing both together in The River (1998), about which my student Alana Gerecke is writing in her doctoral dissertation.
Now in her sixties, Jamieson has begun exploring the effects of aging on the dancing body, moving (conceptually and kinetically) from what she calls the muscular body to the energy body (Jamieson has long used yoga as a foundation of her dance practice). The result is solo/soul, premiering at this year's Dancing on the Edge Festival, and developed over three years in "danced conversation" with other leading talents in the local dance community, including Serge Bennathan, Peter Bingham, Margaret Grenier, Meredith Kalaman, Lee Su-Feh, Darcy McMurray, Josh Martin, and Jennifer Mascall. We see excerpts from these studio experiments playing on video monitors in the upstairs and downstairs lobbies of The Dance Centre before we enter the auditorium, with Jamieson drawing from what she calls the "generative power" of her dance interlocutors to anchor both the work's "process and [its] choreographic outcome."
For, as DD Kugler, the dramaturg on the piece, said to me at lunch earlier in the day, what we are seeing in solo/soul is essentially a staging of process. Encircled by freestanding spotlights, against a screen on which visual artist Josh Hite has projected a looping black and white negative of the video images we glimpsed in the lobby, and in both live and recorded dialogue with composer John Korsrud, Jamieson externalizes in performance not just the internal architecture of the body (its breath and energy), but also the internal rehearsal and workshop dynamics and energies of the studio.
It's a brave choice, but for those outside Jamieson's dual energy circles (the one she's dancing inside on stage and the one we watch on the screen) the results can seem at once opaque and overly literal. In other words, we are invited but at times struggle to "interpret" Jamieson's movement in light of the video footage and snatches of conversation (mostly from Lee) that we hear from it. Not that this effort is entirely misspent; the energy required is, after all, part of what we are (or should be) bringing to the conversation.