Reviewed by on    Dance   ,

Echo by Christopher House
(The Associates)

It is easy to understand how dance is at the forefront of all performance because it is constantly pushing the boundaries of the human body, investigating the relationship between the human body and the possibilities offered by all technologies involved in spacial creation, transforming the relationship between the text and the body. We are so lucky that the Director of Dance at the NAC has the courage to bring us programmes that may not always be easily understood but that help and have always contributed to forming a demanding dance public in Ottawa.

Marie Chouinard has always been synonymous with extreme originality on the Quebec dance scene and her work seems to be a constant investigation into the anthropological sources of the human being. Emerging from the green greasy Uhrschleim of creation, ritualized movements that take us back to pre-western civilization,(not unlike Romeo Castellucci!) her dancers now propel us into new relations between the human animal and our current technological revolution.

Etude N. 1 created in Austria in 2001 featured the most luminous and beautifully supple and slithering body of Antonija Livingstone, glowing like a golden creature exhumed , paradoxically, from the ruins of some civilization of outer space. The two ( note the participation of Frédéric Tavernin), first appear in street dress, preparing the stage, moving up the curtain, exposing the spots in the wings , discussing the equipment, before moving off and returning in their performance mode. This is therefore far removed from a lyrical piece linked to some form of contemporary reality.

A new world appears and the male figure carries the androgynous form to its spot on the edge of an electric blue mat where she begins her corporeal dialogue with the contemporary soundscape that rings out through the theatre. Rhythms, volumes and sound textures such as scratching, grinding, rumbling, clanking, hissing, banging all forms of noise produced by mechanical monsters come together in this metallic soundscape produced by Louis Dufort.

The golden figure , revealing an extreme resilience to the physical assault of these mechanical creatures, seems to be wired up to the sound and she reacts accordingly. She moves away from the mat and the mechanics stop. She move back onto the mat, and the abrupt movements of a motor suddenly reconnect and she is back in the circuit of this corporeal mechanics where each body part becomes, temporarily, a piece of this living machine.

The feet bang her steel toed shoes, her legs tremble to the vibrations of the invisible monsters. She stretches and pulls herself as the sounds becomes more deafening and the blue mat becomes a force of resistance against which she repeats her strong movements as her body ripples like a piece of sheet metal waving in the jowls of a bulldozer!

And yet this androgynous creature becomes extremely sensuous at moments, the angles melt, the arms flow, the torso and other parts become entwined before suddenly reverting to boxing movements, wrestling and then becoming a metallic swan lake plugged into an energy source, receiving electric shocks which transform the body again. Playful steps, soft pliable body, tap dance , a human slot machine as the human voice appears giggling, yelling screaming sending off a high pitched sound that sets off an alarm linked to the metallic creatures that have invaded her sound space.

Perhaps the playful moments might have stopped a bit earlier. All was said by then. There was no need to prolong the event in any way. And it ends as it began, full circle as the glowing creature is relocated on her electric blue map. The game is over . It was all breathtaking and beautiful.

A Picture of You Falling : Crystal Pite’s company Kid Pivot created this work in 2008 at the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa, based on dance fragments that had already been performed in the Netherlands. (The Second Person). We see, among other things, the highly theatrical tendency of her work.

She examines a photographic reworking of the progression of human movement. Marcel Duchamp dissects the human body descending the stairs (1912) within the limits of the two-dimensional canvas. Pite examines the multidimensional effects of a human body falling, as each portion of the body screams its own movement . At the same time,  flashes of male and female images pop into view as  lighting effects become a  succession of  paparazzi images!

The choreographer examines the state of  a body  crashing to the floor in slow motion. Is this her reaction to  Duchamp ?   However she locate this in a theatrical narrative revolving around something that “happened”. The gestures suggest a painful experience , there is a corporeal memory of a body in space collapsing, linked to a sensual memory of taste and feeling (the salt, the wind) . The repetition defines these identities and even evolves into a  experience of torture or pain.
The experiment  excites the curiosity,  jostles our complacency and forces us think about this relationship which could have been dangerous, purely experimental, or a means of slicing up corporeal memory in a new performance mode.

Echo by Christopher House , with the dancers moving in different rhythms under long flowing material wrapped around their waists, suggested the work of Martha Graham. However, it became clear that this was an experiments with Chinese, Japanese and other Asian forms of movement. He appears to appropriate these older traditions  within  groups of five or more dancers. Flowing robes, lighting and footware change the interaction from peaceful to more aggressive. It is all set in a ritualized form that flows m connects and reconnects  these moving  individuals.

I could not help but think of the work of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui who borrows from the entire world (take his performance with the Shaolin Monks – Sutra). He  absorbs the forms and creates something entirely new . What we saw last night showed how House has not dared to go as far as Cherkaoui,  but perhaps that is not his intention.

IN any case this was a fine evening of dance and the format of three shorter pieces bringing together three different choreographers in one evening is an excellent idea. It encourages comparison, it locks the presence of each artist in our individual memory. An evening not to be missed!
The Associates/Les Associés continues tonight in the theatre of the NAC (7h30)