Friday, March 20, 2015

Out Innerspace and 605 Collective at the Vancouver International Dance Festival

Last night's mainstage show at VIDF featured a double bill by two stellar local companies: Out Innerspace and 605 Collective. Both companies were presenting excerpts from works-in-progress.

Up first was Out Innerspace's as yet untitled piece. It begins with a lone woman at a microphone, her face half in shadow, extolling the goodness of us in the audience, what good work we're doing, how she and her peers exist only because of us, and that this is most certainly a very good thing. After a brief blackout, the woman is joined by five other dancers (members of OIS's Modus Operandi youth training initiative, I'm assuming). They stare out at us in terror, recoiling three times in a series of collective gasps; maybe we're not so benignly enabling after all. Thus, turning inward to each other, the dancers link arms and form a single bodily chain, propelling each other in eddying waves of massed movement, as if to let go of each other would be to risk abandonment to some outside force (would that be us in the audience again?).

As much as I enjoyed watching these young dancers move so fluidly together, and the ways in which James Proudfoot's warm and glowingly off-centre lighting would catch and momentarily highlight various outstretched limbs, I thought that this opening sequence went on a bit too long, to the point where the various bodily pivots in the chain (shades of mentor Crystal Pite's influence at work here, for sure) became muddied and indistinguishable. Indeed, when, eventually, members of the group broke apart and began responding to each other with distinct phrases, it was rewarding to see just what excellent movers each of them is. And when they were joined by OIS artistic directors and choreographers David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen for a robust and high-energy bit of unison movement, I was in a definite spectatorial sweet spot.

Soon, however, we're back to that massed clump, only this time it assumes a form that seems to have a face--and that now chases offstage one among the group it had previously spit out. This dancer (Arash Khakpour) will eventually return, breathing and scatting into the now hand-held microphone from the top of the show as the other dancers slowly advance upon him, heaving and pulsing along with his rhythms. But whether they are feeding off of, or on, his energy remains unclear.

Following an intermission, we were treated to a "short draft" of the research that has so far gone into 605 Collective's Vital Few, which according to the program will premiere at VIDF next year. Also exploring the relationship of the individual to the group, but in ways that specifically seek to comment on how members of the 605 ensemble create movement together, the piece begins with six dancers (including co-artistic directors Lisa Gelley and Josh Martin) emerging in a parallel line stage left, improvising a series of lunges and squats and backwards and forwards arm extensions in response to one another. Arriving centre stage, the group forms a circle, into the middle of which one of the women now steps, swiping one arm through the air. Returning to the edge of the circle, the woman repeats the same movement once again. And again. And again. This is the signal for the other dancers to begin adapting their own improvised and previously autonomous movements into a larger choreographic structure.

Over the course of the next twenty minutes each of the dancers will take a turn "in the lead," initiating a phrase which the others will either repeat or adapt. This is the way 605 has always worked, but here they are exposing that process for us, making it the basis for the work itself. And we are able to see and appreciate the way they are working together in part because the group has deliberately slowed down their usual high-speed tempo. This culminates in an amazing round-robin of pick-up movement to an aria by Enrico Caruso, a marrying of contemporary and classical forms that allows us, in turn, to pick up (and out) what makes each of these dancers--and the group as a whole--so distinctive.


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