Yesterday evening The Dance Centre launched its 2014-15 season with a cocktail party and showing of DC artist-in-residence Shay Kuebler's work-in-progress, Glory. I counted it as a good sign that on the way to the event we ran in to both Lesley Telford and Emily Molnar, the former in town to create a new piece for the latter's company members at Ballet BC--which will have its premiere in November.
The showing of Glory began with a POV film clip of a drunken man stumbling along a dimly lit road late at night. He falls to the ground and when he looks up he (and we) see a hooded figure staring at him off in the distance. But when he looks again the figure is gone. So begins a cat and mouse game that ends with our protagonist taking shelter in an abandoned building, using a flashlight to navigate its warren of rooms and every now and then catching his pursuer staring at him through a window. It is at this moment that we notice another beam of light being directed across the stage, this one attached to a live body, presumably the reverse avatar of our onscreen hero. As he flails about in the dark, we soon detect that he is being shadowed by four or five others, who emerge silently and stealthily from the wings to encircle the terrified torch bearer, menacing him with an assault of kinetic energy he can sense but not see.
The sequence, which is accompanied by creepy Psycho-esque music, is a suitably vertiginous and sensorily disorienting opening to a work that, as Kuebler subsequently told us, explores the glorification of violence in various forms of media such as films, television, and video games. Kuebler, who grew up practicing martial arts and watching kung fu and action movies, is interested in investigating through movement those moments when violence is spotlighted and amplified on screen: whether it be the slow motion impact of a bullet to a body; a prolonged death scene; a four-on-one fight that just won't quit; or the self that is subject to violent manipulation by external forces. The paradox is that these scenes, as enacted by Kuebler and his amazingly talented dancers (many of them cohorts from the 605 Collective), at once break down as "stunts" the various components we take to be "real" in action films and re-aestheticize them through the dancers' hypnotic virtuosity.
Which is also to say that embedded in Kuebler's title there is both critique and homage. I look forward to witnessing the final working through of this dialectic when the piece premieres at the Chutzpah! Festival next February.