Yesterday, as part of the Vancouver International Dance Festival's presentation series at the new KW Studios at Woodward's, I attended an early evening performance of light breaking broken, a new duet by Karen Jamieson and Margaret Grenier, Artistic Director of Dancers of Damelahamid. A collaborative exploration of what it means to move through and occupy space (and particular emplaced spaces) trans-temporally and cross-culturally, the piece saw Jamieson and Grenier adapting their different dance histories and vocabularies to specific points of kinetic intersection and crossing. It begins with the two women walking slowly around a single projected amoeba-like image on the floor; as a drumbeat begins and Elder Betsy Lomax begins to speak in voiceover, the image starts to expand, turning into a swirling spiral (the projections are by Josh Hite). Eventually Jamieson will step into the eye of the spiral, with Grenier continuing to move about its edge, her arms outstretched towards Jamieson, whose body alternates between slow sinuous sways and rapid staccato shakes as she absorbs the energy of this particular force field.
For most of the piece the two dancers continue in a similar manner, their bodies always contiguous in space, but their pathways mostly traversing separate trajectories, at least at the beginning. This seems an apt metaphor for the "broken historical narratives and contemporary connections of hope" that the dancer-choreographers say they are channeling in their program note. On the latter front it was particularly compelling for me to register how, in the moments when the two performers did come together in a shared movement pattern, they did not try to make their execution of that pattern seamless and exactly the same. In the animal shapes the two women would make, Karen would hold her hands in a slightly different position over her face. And in their jumps to Andrew Grenier's recorded drumbeats, Karen would tend to anticipate the beat, whereas Margaret would respond to it.
At the end of the piece, having brought their respective bodies more than once to the threshold of a shaft of light that bisects the dance floor, the dancers eventually cross over to the other's side. Thereafter they come together in the centre, both now extending their arms toward the other, but not quite touching. Again, it seemed an appropriate physical representation of the work of connection that has been undertaken in this piece, but also the work that is still ongoing. And on that note it was interesting to hear from Andrew Grenier after the dancers had taken their bows and exited the stage that light breaking broken, which was created in consultation with Cree/Gitxsan Elder Margaret Harris, brought the three women full circle from their first collaboration on Gawa Gyani (1991), a piece choreographed by Karen that the younger Margaret danced in, and on which the older Margaret and her late husband, Chief Kenneth Harris, also consulted.