Reviewed by Paula Citron
Festival TransAmériques 2009 Dance
Microclimats – Emmanuel Jouthe, Antonija Livingstone & Caroline Dubois, Carole Nadeau & Louis Hudon
Bruno Beltrao/Grupo de Rua
Montreal’s annual international Festival TransAmériques presents cutting edge dance and theatre. The good news about the opening weekend is that there wasn’t a doggie in the bunch. On the other hand, only a couple of shows really turned my crank.
A brave new initiative this year is the cleverly titled Microclimats which featured 13 short works by mostly Montreal theatre and dance artists. The venue was the historic Monument-National with every nook and cranny taken over as ad hoc stages. I caught three dance shows at Microclimats, but only one really took my fancy.
Choreographer Emmanuel Jouthe had a gem with his interactive piece Ecoute pour voir set in a foyer and down a long corridor. Eleven dancers performed solos and duets, but the twist was that one person at a time was given a headset to listen to the music to which the various dances were set. It was an extremely intimate encounter because the pieces were choreographed to include the viewer. For example, dancers stared you in the eye or breathed down your neck. It was lap dance as high art. You certainly could not be passive because you became part of the performance as other audience members witnessed the interaction between you and the dancer. If you didn’t have a headset to hear the music, watching the movement out of context was an entirely different – and distant – experience. Very clever, and unnerving, indeed.
Carole Nadeau’s Le Cirque du Sommeil was a terrific idea that was just not developed fully enough. Nadeau was harnessed up in the air in a pair of pajamas and behind her was a projection screen with Louis Hudon’s live pictures. What we were seeing were Nadeau’s dreams. What was fascinating was that Hudon created the pictures from objects. For example, when Nadeau was dreaming that she was in a forest, Hudon used a small house plant which, when projected on the screen, became giant leaves of a tropical forest. The problem is that Nadeau did not do enough aeriel movement and gave the piece over to the screen. There was just so much more imaginative choreography that could go with these wonderful, whimsical pictures. This piece has potential for huge growth.
Antonija Livingstone is a choreographer of note who spends half her time in Europe and half in Montreal. Her Petite Rivière, however, was a disappointment. She and co-creator Caroline Dubois knelt on the stage and played hand bells. At the same time, and off in the corner, three couples of various genders held each other in a piéta (like the Virgin Mary holding the lifeless Jesus). From the seating, the posed couples could not be seen well, which was part of the plan. On the other hand, what was happening on stage was not of wild interest either. Collectively, one assumes, these were bells for the dead. I needed more, however, to come to grips with Livingstone’s vision.
YASMEEN GODDER (ISRAEL)
At first glance, the choreography of Israel’s Yasmeen Godder looks like bad improvisation. It’s as if the dancers were allowed to move as the spirit moved them with limbs flying in every direction and the torso and head undulating at will. Only when phrases began to repeat did one get a sense of Godder’s grand design, namely, that ugly choreography coupled with ugly costumes define character. (Picture two oranges as breasts sewn into a brassiere.)
Godder’s Singular Sensation featured five dancers, three women and two men, trying to be part of the group while defining themselves as individuals, and perhaps failing at both. Nothing is attractive about the way her dancers move. They shuddered, convulsed, and distorted their bodies while making all manner of facial expressions punctuated by eruptions of sounds and dramatic pauses.
On the plus side, through this graceless movement Godder does create conversations and monologues while fashioning archetypes like the nerdy guy and the tarty girl. Also to her credit are the visual statements about the frailty of the human condition. Over time, however, the utter lack of kinetic harmony begins to offend the eye.
BRUNO BELTRAO/GRUPO DE RUA (BRAZIL)
Why is it that, more often than not, when a choreographer gets a visionary idea, he or she can’t develop it past the original concept? This – what I call being stuck on a treadmill – describes Brazil’s Bruno Beltrao. His Grupo de Rua is made up of nine very attractive and charismatic young men who are clearly supremely fit and who dance with passion. Nonetheless, after the initial delight, the piece H3 became a bore.
Beltrao’s choreographic shtick is deconstructing hip-hop to advance urban street dance as an art form. Imagine taking fragments of the virtuoso moves embedded in the dance style, and reordering these bits into new phrases. The result is a staccato, spasmodic vocabulary that is quite unique because nothing completes itself. It’s almost as if hip-hop has been rendered into shorthand. From an audience point of view, the clipped images create a desperate restlessness that fits so well with rebellious youth.
The work is choreographed in a series of solos, duets and larger ensembles. When the men aren’t dancing, they are watching. Many of the encounters are tinged with violence, but some speak of warmth and a surprising closeness. The piece, however, is a repeating cycle and nothing new emerges by the end that we didn’t know in the first five minutes.
Festival TransAmériques continues in Montreal until Jun. 6.