Benjamin Kamino’s naked, dancing, death-head-tattoo adorned body greeted the audience as we entered la Nouvelle Scène for Thursday’s 7pm show. The stage was clad in white paper that ran up the back wall and a dinky ghetto blaster issued forth some creaky old crooner tunes. Kamino’s neo-primitive/hippy/ecstatic dance dwindled to an end and there he stood vulnerable before us, eyes scanning the gathered crowd, slowly taking us all in. Dipping into a slow back arch his mouth suddenly popped open and rivers of black gushed forth and streamed down his body. I swear I heard a collective gasp…
These first three movements of Nudity.Desire – the voyeurism, confrontation, and surprise/shock – created a wonderful palette upon which the rest of the piece – indeed, the whole evening – would unfold. Perhaps there’re too many “bath salts” headlines these days, but I couldn’t help thinking that what ensued were the demented ramblings of a chemically induced trip… Graphic images that ranged from seeking to self-identify (tracing his outline on the paper wall and floor), the collapse of nature (a surprising drawing of a tree being torn asunder), and being completely awash in paper (the arts administrator in me identified with that one) poured forth like a storm of the imagination. All of these images came with the dancer’s moaning, guttural search for language, the desire to connect & relate his experience.
Overall Kamino’s work was ghoulish and troubling. There’s a fascinating beauty in his out of control state of seeking combined with his struggle against (and willingness to succumb to) gravity. At the end he breaks the spell – my show mate suggested he wanted to let us know that he wasn’t actually totally wasted – and emerges from his whirl wind of paper singing in an almost melancholic voice. I found the transition abrupt, and lamented the breaking of the spell that he had quite masterfully ensnared us in. But wow, what a ride!
Toronto Dance Theatre followed suit with a trio choreographed by Jean-Sebastien Lourdais. I spoke with JS while queuing up for the show and asked if we were going to see something representative of his style. The short answer is “yes”, the long is that he had 40 hours to work with the group and that a decent chunk of this time was invested getting the dancers to the departure point of his physical process and that he was happy with the transmission of the physical vocabulary.
I’ve been hearing about Lourdais’ work for quite some time and was impressed with the highly detailed struggle that emerged from his dancers’ bodies. The opening soloist in particular was supercharged with restraint and a wellspring of movement contained within. What came out was like a torrent of locking/popping being forced through a much too small aperture, the pressure bubbling saliva to the surface. Étrange was indeed strange: wonderful physicality fighting its way out of three bodies and, once emerged, became confrontational between the bodies themselves.
Overall, the work felt like a window into a work, not complete unto itself, more like we’d been dropped into something midstream and then been plucked out before seeing what was around the corner. The abrupt ending was unsatisfying, but the time shared floating in their world was well spent. It raises issues around invention – of movement, atmosphere, image life/world… It’s one thing to develop fascinating characters/movement/worlds, but what do we do/say with them once they exist?
I’d say the two works at la Nouvelle Scène were wonderfully theatrical, beautifully performed, and full of dark, brooding, angst, but only Kamino’s felt complete.
Off to the National Arts Centre for the 8:30 show featuring ODD (the Ottawa Dance Directive) with works by Yvonne Coutts and Tedd Robinson. After all that earlier suffering & struggle, Yvonne Coutts Fracture was a welcome release valve full of playful dance. Her trio began life as a duet, so we’re told by one of the performers who then spends most of the piece trying to fit in, but evolved into a trio when a bit more money became available. While this information was delivered with great humour, I can’t help but feeling the choreographer is being wonderfully cheeky about our current government’s thorough lack of comprehension (and support!) for the arts.
Whatever her intention, Coutts’ themes of identity and social cohesion were what this performance was all about, and her sense of humour was thoroughly refreshing.
Tedd Robinson’s Trembleherd Bells carried on the evening’s overall feeling of struggle and angst, though like Yvonne’s work, incorporates humour as a means of disarming the deep pathos embodied within. Robinson is a master at this game: his little family of 5 performers (4 dancers and a musician) so uniform and comic in their energy and intensity, it is only as the work progresses that we can identify the deep sense of panic that has been bubbling below the surface. White costumes on a white patch of floor, it is almost like we are looking through a microscope and some isolated petri-dish community exploring the limits of their boundaries but seeking to signal whatever lies in the beyond. Is it the future that is so frightening? The unknown that lies just out of reach? Uncanny how Tedd wraps his tentacles around the audience, at first it is like a caress but eventually we realise he has us in his clutches and we’re going for a ride.
On a closing note, the post-show receptions have been fun: so nice to have a place to gather immediately post-show. It’s not Chez Jack, but after too many years of little buzz, it’s welcome relief to walk into a room where the vibe is up and dance people are celebrating all the hard work that we do.