Monday, April 30, 2018

Spooky Action at the Dance Centre

Yesterday was International Dance Day and part of the celebrations at The Dance Centre included a free show of the latest iteration of Lesley Telford/Inverso Productions' Spooky Action. A shorter version of the piece was first presented a year ago (which I blogged about here), and then again in November at Dance in Vancouver. A collaboration with spoken word artist Barbara Adler and five dancers, Telford's ambitious exploration of the world of quantum entanglement seeks to make felt the uncanny kinetic experience both of making something happen and of having something happen to one.

It all begins with Adler explaining to us, via cribbed notes from Wikipedia, the basic principles of physical entanglement, how unseen particles, even separated by great distances, are somehow in communication with each other, and how the state of one particle (position, spin, momentum) necessarily affects the state of another. Action and reaction. Or as Adler later sums up the paradox in her first-person monologue: "I happened to people, but they happened back." Telford mines this choreographically in a number of intriguing ways, beginning with an opening solo in which Ria Girard explores--with her eyes closed and her searching arms outstretched--the delimited spatial orbit of her spotlit circle. But even in this suspended state things are happening: to Girard and to us. A turn in one direction produces a different facing. An arm reaching behind her back pulls her first this way, and then that way. Soon Girard is joined by five other dancers: Stephanie Cyr, Eden Solomon, Desi Rekrut, Lucas Wilson-Bilbo, and Ariana Barr. Surprised by their sudden appearance, Girard nevertheless discovers that her movements can somehow affect theirs. This ricocheting effect begins slowly and subtly, with a pivot by Girard from one dancer to the next producing a head bobble here, a buckle at the knees there. Soon, however, Girard's wizard-like turns become faster and the other dancers are bouncing up and down and boomeranging back and forth like pinballs.

But as Adler's text returns to the question of who is controlling whom, the other dancers constellate around Girard, each taking a turn whispering some secret message into her ear, before forming a chain hitched at the right arm behind her. This in turn leads into a sequence in which the group begins to move Girard, and from here the piece opens up into a succession of danced entanglements, Telford's arrangement of her bodies in space--via, for example, a simple yet beautifully captivating group pattern of unison breathing, or via more complicated duets--making manifest the axiom spoken by Adler: "There's distance, and also time." In dance, as in quantum physics, both can be stretched. And both can be folded and collapsed into each other, yet another paradox brilliantly illustrated with an elastic band, a story of the various lives affected by a car crash spoken by Adler as she moves slowly across the stage behind the elastic, and the dancers whizzing back and forth underneath it.

As Adler's text emphasizes just before this sequence, the question of the something that is happening--in the world, in one's life, in a performance--is not, or not only, an "if" or a "when" question. It's also, and perhaps most crucially, a "with" question: those seen and unseen forces that are beside one, acting upon one, and responding to one in the happening of that something. In quantum mechanics the term for this state of "withness" is superposition: that any two or more quantum states can be added together to produce another distinct quantum state. It's a principle that applies equally well to this unique collaboration, with text and movement the shared axes upon which the work spins.

I look forward to the next iteration.


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