Thursday, November 26, 2015

Nostos at SFU Woodward's

As it's that time of year (end of semester), and I need to budget my time accordingly, this is less a formal review post per se, than an enthusiastic endorsement of the School for the Contemporary Arts' Fall Mainstage Dance show, Nostos, on at the Fei and Milton Wong Theatre at SFU Woodward's through this Saturday. Overseen by my colleague Rob Kitsos, and showcasing the choreography of Peter Bingham, Lesley Telford, Shauna Elton, and Kitsos, the evening is structured around the theme of nostalgia, and also features live musical and spoken word accompaniment by SFU MFA Candidate Barbara Adler and the Pugs and Crows (Meredith Bates, Cole Schmidt, Russell Sholberg, and Ben Brown).

A repertory company of 30+ dancers (including three of my students from FPA 228W, Dance Aesthetics), divided into two overlapping groups, seamlessly segues between each choreographer's individual contributions, which are so well integrated in terms of transitions (no blackouts!) and so complementary in terms of movement vocabulary that it is hard to determine where one section leaves off and another begins. With such a large ensemble, and building on the theme of nostalgia, it's no surprise that canon and retrograde movement features prominently; but what's so pleasurable about the incorporation of these techniques in this program is how they coalesce around simple patterns that accrue depth and emotional intensity by virtue of their repetition within and across each choreographer's work: the sidelong glance backwards, fall to the knees, and swaying lean of Bingham; the inner calf clasp and directional planting of a foot of Telford (a move that slayed me with its beauty); the supported arching of torsos and hands over the crawling backs of partners of Elton; and the rat-a-tat chopping and segmenting and boxing of visual space by so many industrious hands of Kitsos.

Repetition was a theme that came up in Adler's spoken word accompaniment to Telford's section, a riff on the spaces and sensory traces of memory (the taste of chocolate that lingers despite the absence of candy wrappers in purses and pockets) that came back in the evening's finale, which became both a constellation of and elaboration on the movement patterns we had been primed to respond to in each of the preceding sections. But this section also added new patterns and formations, including a group circle that like a collective sigh or exhalation of breath (or, indeed, the bellows of Adler's accordion) expanded and contracted to embrace both the parts and the whole of this remarkable group collaboration.


No comments: