Sunday, July 8, 2018

DOTE 2018: Edge 2 at The Firehall

Dancing on the Edge's second mixed program, Edge 2, serves as a showcase for a powerful group of strong women dancers in Vancouver.

The first piece is by Lesley Telford/Inverso Productions. Lesley first presented IF in Vancouver at The Dance Centre in April 2017, and I have previously blogged about the work here. An exploration of the triangulated relationships between three identically clad dancers (Karin Ezaki, Ria Girard, and Eden Solomon, all excellent), the piece operates through a dynamic of displacement/replacement, with different bodies' successive occupations of a lone chair positioned stage right suggesting not just a redistribution of space but the sedimentation of time. Key to this is the exchange of looks that is sustained by the dancers as they repeat a circular pattern that serves as the work's structuring movement phrase, with one dancer passing in front of her seated other just as she is about to be upended from the chair by a third dancer moving towards her from upstage: the act of watching someone watching herself being watched completes a feedback loop of physical presence in which the conditions of existence are reduced to basic matters of proximity and distance. One difference in this iteration of IF is that it is being performed without the text by Anne Carson that originally accompanied it (long story). Lesley mentioned to me before the performance that she was very worried about how the work would now read, but afterwards I assured her that this version had succeeded in supplanting my own previous memories of how text and movement had played off each other. In so doing, it actually focused my attention away from the more sedentary action involving the chair and towards the bolder physicality that gets played out in a series of solos and duos that unfold stage left.

Amber Funk Barton's For You, For Me is a solo she has composed as a gift to DOTE on the occasion of its 30th anniversary. Amber arrives on the bare and fully illuminated Firehall stage in black shorts and top, and wearing a pair of runners. She looks around the space, taking it in, and then registers how it reverberates in her body kinetically. She reaches a hand out into space, traces a line along the floor, tests her balance by leaning over the sides of her shoes to the left before falling to the ground. Part of the joy of this piece comes from watching Amber remember all that she has done on this stage, and also what she can still do. When she lifts one leg above her head in full extension and then pivots 360 degrees on the other, a smile of "wow" lights up her face and it is instantly contagious. As is how Amber mixes the different movement vocabularies that reside in her body, a pirouette and jeté, or a walking line on demi-pointe, contrasted--sometimes instantly--with a body roll or a bit of floating and flying. Even the way she rearranges her top from front to back through a quick and dextrous shifting of her arms is utterly captivating. Amber performs all of this without music. All we hear is the squeak of her shoes and her breathing, effort here being another of Amber's gifts to us and this space. Hence her perfect ending. Bending backwards to the floor as the intensely bright lights slowly fade to black she moves the square she has formed with the thumb and forefinger of one hand from her heart centre to the ground beside her: everything she has, she has left on the floor.

Wen Wei Wang's Ying Yun is also performed mostly in silence. A tribute to the memory of the choreographer's mother, this excerpt from a larger work-in-progress features five incredibly talented young female dancers: Eowynn Enquist, Sarah Formosa, Ria Girard, Daria Mikhaylyuk, and Stéphanie Cyr. At the top of the piece they are clumped together as a group centre stage, rocking from side to side as they breathe audibly and in unison in and out, like they are a single lung. Following a brief blackout, we next find the dancers with their backs to us in a staggered formation upstage. They hold this pose for a time before suddenly, and on Enquist's split-second cue, shifting their weight backwards onto one leg and twisting their torsos slightly. This move is repeated and then added to, Wang building a repertoire of strong, heroic poses--a reach to the heavens with both hands, a deep plié, a lunge and calf grab to the side--that the dancers start to cycle through at a faster and faster rate. Mixed in with this looping score are also more gestural phrases that the dancers count through together, always stopping on the seventh beat. The exquisite unison is completely beguiling, and as a study in virtuosic synchronicity I could have watched these patterns repeat forever. However, Wang slowly builds in a counterpoint to the unison by having each of the dancers break off at certain points into solos, all of which showcase the unique talents and physicalities of these exceptional young dancers. This shift is also accompanied by the introduction of music composed by Amon Tobin. It's not clear to me at this point how these two aspects of the work fit together, and while I appreciated the note on which this current version of the work ends--a return to one of the signature poses from the beginning--the way it was arrived at felt a bit awkward. That said, I very much look forward to how the rest of this work unfolds.


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