(My night #3 at the Canada Dance Festival)
OK, so I’m a pig. Thanks George (Stamos) for helping reveal my inner reality! It’s not like I was consciously hiding it, but yesterday’s activities (too much sitting in closed rooms with easy access to platters upon platter of sugary concoctions) ushered me to that single moment where my hand unthinkingly reached forth and snatched a pink, butter cream laden cupcake from its silver serving tray and unceremoniously stuffed it into my mouth. But how could I resist? There was George talking about how cupcakes and burgers were the new rage, and voila! his beaming face in front of mine tempting me to the dark side with his sugary offerings.
In all fairness, I wasn’t the only one; in fact there was a whole room full of people awaiting the tray’s arrival so that they too could fulfill their desire (for cupcake). Why, Sara Coffin even asked for another, though she claimed it was because her first was vanilla and she ardently wished for chocolate.
And so unfolds Stamos’ LikLik Pik, a playful look at the animal power of the human body and features the delightful onstage pairing of Stamos and Dany Desjardins. The work is rollicking good fun but is by no means limited to humour and sweets. There’s a sense of ritual that emerges in both the sound score and the dancers’ repetitive gestures, and as with Raven Spirit’s work from the night before, the need/desire to connect with the audience becomes more than apparent. Enter the cupcakes…
George Stamos’ evolution as an artist has arrived at a wonderful place where his grasp of choreographic tools and dramatic structure fully serve his stunningly rich imagination and highly inventive movement vocabulary. LikLik Pik is provocative, poignant, and full of temptation.
Licking butter cream off its fingers, the audience streamed out of La Nouvelle Scène and made its way up Rideau St to the National Arts Centre to catch Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers. Their show, 97 Positions of the Heart, choreographed by Brent Lott, was inspired by the life and writings of Elizabeth Smart. A true fan of Can Lit, I am embarrassed to admit that I have never read Smart’s work; following this show I am full of desire to do so!
Unlike Stamos’ work, which is firmly rooted in the here-and-now of contemporary dance, with this work Lott’s artistic direction is grounded in the past. For whatever it’s worth, Brent is the first one to admit this. Whether their different approaches simply reveal two distinct artists’ voices or are symbolic of work originating from two wildly different communities, I find their individual styles served each piece admirably.
Lott worked with poet Jaik Josephson to create a verbal score that acts as through line upon which the wonderfully talented dancers navigate the piece. The text was rich and heavy – as it seems was Smart’s life – and the dancers pulled it off with aplomb. All too often, when dancers are required to open their mouths the results are less than satisfying. Dramaturge Debbie Patterson must’ve cracked the whip hard cuz this ensemble thoroughly engaged the public with their ability to deliver Josephson’s evocative text. A simple decor and lighting served to put focus where the focus needed to be: on the richly woven physical performances of the six dancers and the words they so deftly embodied.
In the post show chat, Brent Lott revealed that he didn’t want to create just a dance piece or even a dance/theatre piece, but that he wanted to embrace the spirit of Smart’s writing, particularly as revealed in By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, and transcend (or defy!) easy categorical boundaries. In this, Lott and his wonderfully talented group of collaborators were bang on.
Seeing these two contrasting works back to back was quite satisfying. On one hand, an artist applying current technologies and aesthetic research to create work from the edge; on the other, an artist using tried and true practices to evoke a sort of physical biography of an iconic figure (while begetting the question: do we really need to reinvent the wheel time and time again?). Two very different works that illustrate the diverse range of our national dance identity. Holy hallelujah the Canada Dance Festival exists so such things can be put in perspective.