EDAM's annual spring choreographic series featured new work from guest artists Natalie Tin Yin Gan and Shauna Elton, alongside a revival of a work EDAM Artistic Director Peter Bingham first presented a year ago.
Gan's Level 10 Life is billed as a "dance in sound and vibration." It features three performers in softly lit individual spots in three distinct areas of the stage. Alanna Ho squats in front of a laptop spinning music stage right, one leg sexily extended. Michelle Lui is downstage centre, astride a chair, a microphone positioned in front of her. An unrecognizable Aryo Khakpour (in part because, as we later discover, he's wearing giant bug eyes) lounges downstage left. As Ho continues to play music, Lui eventually leans into the microphone, quietly telling us the date and time of the performance, before calling out names of folks she recognizes in the audience. The contract between performers and audience thus having been breached, we are thus primed for anything to happen. But nothing much else does. Khakpour eventually sits and then stands up, brandishing a crop of some sort and advancing a bit downstage. Lui, meanwhile, retreats upstage and bops a little up and down to the music Ho is playing. Everything unfolds as if in a dream, or some futuristic space bar to which we have been lured on the promise of adventure, but for which we do not know the proper conventions or social codes.
Elton's Amae is a trio for Kate Franklin, Emmalena Fredriksson and the choreographer. It's a big-hearted, wide-limbed, joyous ode to bodily connection, mutual support, and psychic interdependence. The dancers run on stage in similar grey and red dresses, throw down various dance accessories (knee pads, socks, etc.), and then launch into a robust sequence of pushes and pulls and small lifts and jumps and limb-to-limb touching that combines some of the principles of contact with Elton's own contemporary vocabulary. There is, for example, a terrific moment in which Elton is carrying Franklin (or maybe it was the other way around), and Fredriksson, crouched on the floor, slides her hands between Elton's legs and beside her feet, as if giving her fellow dancer, now burdened with the weight of another body, directional guidance. Not that we don't also witness moments of tension and conflict in this piece. At one point Elton is lying on her side downstage while Franklin and Fredriksson work through who is leading and who is following whom in a series of toreador-like advances and retreats. The work concludes with the three dancers, having donned the accessories that had previously lain on the floor and simultaneously shed their outer grey frocks, in some senses becoming one single, hydra-headed body--an appropriate image for the gathering force of feminine energy and love that is at the heart of this dance.
Bingham's Pillars concluded the evening. While it has a new name, the work appears to follow the same structure as last year's Convergence, which I first blogged about here, and whose original title Bingham has now transposed to this entire evening's worth of presentations. That is, the work begins with the seven dancers (Delia Brett, Anne Cooper, Elissa Hanson, Arash Khakpour, Walter Kubanek, Diego Romero, and Olivia Shaffer) facing either side of the studio's east and west walls. At a certain point Brett peels off and begins to improvise a solo, shimmying liquidly through space, extending first one limb then another, descending to and then rolling about the floor. Eventually making contact with Kubanek on the other side of the studio, Brett drags him into her orbit, their duo expanding to a trio with the addition of Cooper, and then to a quartet when Romero feels the group's adhesive pull, and so on until all seven dancers have peeled themselves from the walls and are improvising with each other on stage. This time around, however, it seems like Bingham has removed some of the work's previous restrictions: there is no returning to the side walls for any of the dancers, and it feels like none of them is required to hew to a specific individual line in space. As such, the performers are freer to seek out another body or bodies with which to improvise a specific contact sequence. They can also do their own thing, and there was a moment last night when Shaffer, who is such a gorgeously fluid dancer, found herself separated from the group and contrived a wonderful sitting solo for herself that I could have watched all night. As she is doing this, the other six dancers have paired off and are cycling through different gravity-defying lifts and poses against the upstage wall. Which makes me think that not all the structuring principles from the previous iteration of this piece have been jettisoned. They've just morphed into something new. Above all, what made the performance so fun to watch is that the dancers themselves were clearly having fun.
An additional surprise on last night's program was the newly renovated lobby of the Western Front. I guess it's been a while since I've last been inside the building. So I was unprepared for what I encountered when I opened the doors: a bright, airy, open and modern entryway, with the box office now to the right, two loos adjacent it, and the rest a wide open space in which to linger and mingle with fellow patrons and artists. It makes the whole EDAM experience that much more enjoyable.