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Review

Multiple Perspectives

By Seika Boye, Julie Houle Cezer, Brittany Duggan, Kaija Pepper
  • “Fragments - Volume I” by Sylvain Émard for Sylvain Émard Danse / Photo by Angelo Barsetti 
  • Naomi Stikeman in “Caturn” for One Yellow Fish & Danse-Cité / Photo by Nicolas Ruel 
  • Paul-André Fortier and Robert Racine in “Cabane” by Fortier for Fortier Danse Creation / Photo by Hugo Glendinnind 
  • “Ihtsi-pai-tapi-yopa: Essence” by Byron Chief Moon for Coyote Arts Percussive Performance Association / Photo by Chris Randle 

Canada Dance Festival 

Canada Dance Festival

Ottawa  June 4-12, 2010 

June 4: Opening Night
“Is You Me” (2007) by Benoît Lachambre, Par B.L.eux National - Arts Centre Theatre
By Julie Houle Cezer

The multidisciplinary creation, “Is You Me” (2007) by Benoît Lachambre, represents an exemplary integration of technology and movement in which juxtapositions and superimpositions of drawing and moving are continuously generated in real time and space. In this world, two dimensional lines and three dimensional volumes inform and define each other momentarily as they intersect and interact, all the while morphing into something else. On a white, raked platform framed upstage by screens, and devoid of personae in their hoody-style costumes, dancers Louise Lecavalier and Benoît Lachambre move like characters emerging from and returning to cartoon land. They both reflect and react to the environment and the rhythm of dancing lines, video insertions and images being drawn and projected in real time by French set and lighting designer Laurent Golding, seated downstage right. All three visually respond to the live music flowing from the fingers of New York composer Hahn Rowe, seated downstage left. Working synergistically, this interdisciplinary quartet has shaped a masterful refinement of earlier experimentation that highlights the potential of movement in multiple dimensions. 

June 5
“Fragments – Volume 1” (Premiere) by Sylvain Émard Danse National - Arts Centre Studio
By Julie Houle Cezer

The three solos and duet that comprise Sylvain Émard’s “Fragments” are true to the title in that they remain discrete expressions by individual performers, each motivated by a sense of urgency; taken together, they have yet to grow into a coherent work. To be sure, the technically articulate dancers Laurence Ramsay, Manuel Roque and Catherine Viau as well as the lone actress, Monique Miller, did succeed in tapping into a place of emotional vulnerability; nonetheless, it was only in solos danced by Roque and Viau that both technical and expressive risk-taking seemed totally connected to a continuously flowing column of energy from within. In pushing the visceral envelope, these two dancers seemed to become less consciously human and more like animals on the move. And … I was transported into the realm and the pulse of pure movement.

June 7
Pre-Professional Culturally Diverse Training Program Showcase - Arts Court Theatre
By Kaija Pepper

This was the first of two afternoon presentations showcasing culturally diverse training programs from across the country who receive funding from Canadian Heritage. The brief half-hour featured only two schools: Lata Pada’s Sampradaya Dance Academy from Mississauga, Ontario, and Zab Maboungou’s Nyata Nyata Danse from Montréal. Both Pada’s quartet, “Journeys”, based on bharatanatyam, and Maboungou’s “Nuances”, a trio for two dancers and percussionist based on African dance, were clear contemporary expressions of force and intention. The showcase continued with a much longer offering the following afternoon from students of Jai Govinda, Patrick Parson (Ballet Creole), Menaka Thakkar (Nrtyakala), and BaKari Eddison Lindsay and Charmaine Headley (COBA).

June 7
Street/Stage National Arts Centre Studio
By Kaija Pepper

Toronto’s F.A.M. and Ottawa’s Bboyizm are two stylish hip hop crews who filled the NAC Studio with attitude, hot tricks and a noticeably youthful audience. F.A.M.’s six strong and agile guys (no girls allowed?) presented a rambling but entertaining display called “This” that played at being ferociously competitive and full of bravado in vintage street dancer style. Bboyizm, two girls and eight guys, went further in terms of pacing their half-hour, titled “IZM”. While F.A.M. started, continued and ended on an intensepitch, which became tiring to watch, Bboyizm built from an opening low-key warm-up to a finale danced with joy. Yes, Bboyizm weren’t afraid to show their feelings and, though their head spins and one-armed balances weren’t as fiercely perfect as those by the touchingly tough boys from F.A.M., when the ragtag Ottawa crew formed a chorus line to Judy Garland singing “That’s Entertainment”, they won my heart. 

June 7
Q Dance/Quanz Danse and Guillaume Côté/Zdenek Konvalina - National Arts Centre Theatre
By Kaija Pepper

Ontario-born Peter Quanz’s “In Tandem”, created for New York’s Guggenheim Museum, is a ballet of gentle human proportions set to the urban drive of Steve Reich’s 2009 “Double Sextet”. The dancers, a sextet borrowed from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, somehow find time to finish their port de bras with slowly unfurling hands; similarly, the way they undulate their arms and spines seems organic despite the speed at which it happens, creating a distinct and complementary musicality next to Reich’s big-city forward momentum. “Impermanence”, which followed, was choreographed by National Ballet of Canada dancers Guillaume Côté and Zdenek Konvalina. Despite a large cast of stellar dancers from the National Ballet and Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, the work floundered in undistinguished leaps and turns, with a confusing narrative involving three men playing the main character at different ages, set to a cut-to-order score by Côté.

June 8
Dancemakers - La Nouvelle Scène
By Kaija Pepper

Double Bill #2, on Toronto’s Dancemakers company, began with artistic director Michael Trent’s enigmatic “Show”, featuring items of paper clothing (each performer ends up wearing a piece), tap shoes for one man and one woman (though there isn’t much tapping), and a duet danced by Rob Abubo with his pants pulled down to his knees and his shirt over his head (my favourite, absurdist part). In Montreal-based k.g. Guttman’s “So You Think the Spectacle Does Not Love You”, the silver sleeves on one costume sparkled alluringly whenever the dancer turned or leapt. The program notes describe both works as touching on exposure and spectacle (yes, that makes sense), pleasure (one dancer does actually smile and laugh several times in Guttman’s piece), and intellectual history (the works did feel rooted in sixties/seventies experimental dance). 

June 8
Sinha Danse/Sampradaya - National Arts Centre Studio
By Kaija Pepper

Roger Sinha, from Montréal, contributed two bharatanatyam-based works, beginning with “Zeros & Ones”, a solo that becomes a quintet with the addition of video of four female faces projected on an upstage screen, their agile features creating a lively dance of eyebrows, eyeballs, mouths and heads. “Thread”, co-choreographed with Natasha Bakht in 2008, was performed by Sinha with Ghislaine Doté, who wove a spell with her grounded, liquid movement. Doté dances like an act of prayer, and near the end when she stretches her arms forward, fully extended, she exposes the underside of her wrists like a confession. Sampradaya collaborated with the UK-based Sampad in “Stealth”, danced by three women from the former company and two men from the latter. This quintet was inspired by chhau (which originated as an Indian martial art form), its gentle force and urgent flow choreographed by New Delhi-based Santosh Nair. 

June 8
Naomi Stikeman - National Arts Centre Theatre
By Kaija Pepper

“Çaturn”, sixty-five-minutes of narrative film intercut with live abstract dance, was co-choreographed by Stikeman and Peter Chu (who were also two of the trio of dancers), and Crystal Pite. The problem with this ambitious piece is that the dialogue-driven film dominates: it feels like its various sections must add up to more than half the piece and the colourful characters are easy to engage with – a hairdresser called Chanelle, an old grandmother with beautiful eyes and a science journalist played by a doll. The dance sections seem all too short and, though beautiful, are cool and mysterious. The standout moment for me was a solo choreographed by Pite, danced by Eira Glover like a twenty-first-century Isadora Duncan: pink Rapunzel-length hair; thin, thoroughbred body; careful abandon; and arms beating like a swan’s wings over her back to end.

June 9
Pre-Professional Contemporary Dance Training Program - The Shenkman Arts Centre
By Brittany Duggan

O Vertigo Artistic Director and choreographer Ginette Laurin visited five graduating classes at Canadian dance training programs over the 2009/2010 year to mount an adaptation of her work “En Dedans”. The sixty dancers – from the School of Dance in Ottawa, the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, the School of Contemporary Dancers in Winnipeg, l’École de danse de Québec and LADMMI – perform in duets, trios, small and large groups, fluidly reconfiguring like water; at times gentle currents, at others, rapid torrents. The dancers in one moment whisper in groups like school children, and dance in beautifully supportive duets in the next. Wearing tank tops and short shorts in various shades of blue, the emerging artists embraced Laurin’s choreography of liquid-like flicks of the limbs and more grounded lines extending from the torso. Moments of quirky gesture float over the percussive sound score layered with whimsical chimes and bilingual counting.

June 9
Robin Poitras, Rouge-gorge - University of Ottawa, Studio Léonard Beaulne
By Brittany Duggan

Robin Poitras brought a triad of work to the festival with “SHE CONE HONEY”. An example of work from Rouge-gorge, Poitras’ project-based company dedicated to her independent dance and performance practice, “SHE” was a solo commission by Paul-André Fortier. A box spring framed by long fluorescent light bulbs inhabited the intimate stage space of Studio Léonard-Beaulne at the University of Ottawa. Poitras spends most of the piece working herself around, over and under the rusty prop, eventually connecting it to an amp on the side of the stage, so that it generates guitar-like sounds when struck. She plays several other obscure instruments, including a long metal pole and, with a large bow, the nape of her neck. A petite woman, Poitras fills the space with bursts of fury mixed with moments of tender fragility. “HONEY”, a solo for herself, involves the artist demonstrating the many ways honey can be used: as paint, as glue, as water, etc. Near the end, as Poitras continues to inch her way on stilts in a large circle around the cool, bare stage, images of the sun and sun worship materialized for me, as her honey soaked hair glistened under the stage lights. The middle piece, “CONE”, programmed between Poitras’ solos, was performed by one of the six performers of “In Fur Till Spring”, providing a short reference to a new creation by Poitras. 

June 10
José Navas / Compagnie Flak “S” and “Villanelle - National Arts Centre Theatre
By Seika Boye

A repetitious, meticulous and meditative interlacing of solos, duets, trios and ensemble work defines Jose Navas’ “S”, an octet performed to composer Eric Satie’s “Gymnopedies” and “Gnossiennes”. The spacious recording of the score is ballooned with Navas’ Cunningham-inspired, movement-for-movement’s-sake style. Precision and grace in the dancers’ performances of intricate and stamina-demanding repertoire transform the group from ensemble to amoeba. Gauzy white costumes are gradually left behind, with the dancers in only their briefs by the end of the work. Navas opened the evening performing his solo “Villanelle”, a term that refers to a challenging eighteenth-century poetic form. Program notes refer to Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” as an example and likely inspiration. Outfitted in similar costume as “S”, “Villanelle” functioned as prelude to the group work, which Navas notes is also inspired by form, specifically Satie’s variations of symmetry.

June 10
Noam Gagnon / Compagnie Vision Selective “The Vision Impure” - National Arts Centre Studio
By Seika Boye

The Vision Impure is an evening of solos, choreographed and performed by Noam Gagnon with the exception of “Untitled no 1”, a commission from Daniel Léveillé. “Untitled” opens the evening with Gagnon performing altnernating sequences of uncomplicated balances and deep lunges, stances and rolls, to a base-heavy song by Outkast. His shadow stretches the full height of the floor-to-ceiling scrim, diminishing into an almost single horizontal line that becomes his two-dimensional partner. Projection again plays a role in Gagnon’s own solos “Part One: Gone”, “Part Two: Unfold me” and “Part Three: A few”, with a repeated black-and-white film loop of a matador dominating a bull before a feverish and jovial crowd in 1930s? Spain. Bare-chested and in worn jeans, Gagnon dances with vulnerability and abandon. Not obviously intending to be beast or human, his repeated swinging and thrusting movement with breaks of subtle swaying and stillness have an aggression and depth suited to either. 

June 10
Amber Funk/the response. “Status Quo”, “Cabinet”, “Valentina” - National Arts Centre Studio
By Seika Boye

Ballet, acrobatics, contemporary and urban dance collide in the response.’s quartet “Status Quo” choreographed and directed by Amber Funk Barton and Shay Kuebler. The response. artistic director, Barton, is the only woman in the quartet and is accompanied on stage by Kuebler and two other male dancers. Refined athleticism carries the performance of Barton’s stylized movement that spins together William Forsythe-ish and jazz isolations with break dancing in repertoire that is married to the rhythm of music by Madlib, Radiohead, Amon Tobin and others. The work reflects on short attention span–induced channel surfing and sections move from moody aggression to satirical jabs at music video culture machismo. Barton and Kuebler perform in solos choreographed for themselves, “Valentina” and “Cabinet” respectively, to open the evening and purposefully challenge notions of themselves as “individuals and performers”.

June 10
Ipsita Nova Dance Projects, Nova Bhattacharya La Nouvelle Scène
By Brittany Duggan

Nova Bhattacharya’s solo show, “Isolated Incidents”, was performed in three distinct sections. In the first, Bhattacharya wears a black sleeveless unitard, flippers, elbow-length mittens and a hat with braids stemming from the top. The movement, to a tabla score in this section, most closely references bharatanatyam technique; however, due to the inhibiting costume, the intricate hand gestures and percussive footwork of this genre were diluted and mostly lost. In the second section, Bhattacharya dances playfully, in her blue-gray sari, to the sound of a bustling cityscape. At one point, she rests in the downstage corner and looks out into the darkness while dabbing her face with a yellow marigold, creating a beautifully warm image of a young woman momentarily at peace. The final section is the most contemporary, with Bhattacharya in a white tunic, dancing freely through the field of glowing yellow and orange marigolds scattered across the stage. In this closing section, Bhattacharya appears to be dancing in celebration of her cumulative experiences. 

June 10
Paul-André Fortier - NAC Scenic Workshop
By Brittany Duggan

An installation art and performance piece, Paul-André Fortier’s “Cabane” is a collaboration between Fortier, musician/performer Rober Racine, filmmaker Robert Morin and the many props – including a cube, tin shack with front door and side window, two or three tripods balancing large harmonicas and a rusty box spring – that litter the stage. In the set workshop of the National Arts Centre, “Cabane” was performed by both Fortier and Racine who, next to their shack, looked almost miniature compared to the large sets of past performances that hung on the walls of the workshop. The men, dressed in suits, move through the space with intention, at times chasing each other around the little hut, but avoiding any formal acknowledgment of the other’s presence. This lack of confrontation led me to wonder if they were two personalities of just one man’s imagination. Racine is not, in the traditional sense, a trained mover, though both men are equally physical and take turns contributing to the organic, as well as alarming, sound score. The performers manipulate the objects in the space to be both instruments and playground.

June 11
Daniel Mroz, Les Ateliers du Corps - University of Ottawa, Academic Hall
By Brittany Duggan

Daniel Mroz and company, Les Ateliers du Corps, presented “Circle/Landfall” for three afternoons during the festival. Audience members were guided into the space by one of the eight performers to seats on either side of the stage, leaving the rows of seating in the theatre vacant. Forming a rectangle by standing on the perimeter of the stage, the performers, dressed in white shirts and black pants, acknowledge one another casually with sounds such as lip vibrations, tongue clicking, cheek popping, and the like. The stage’s subtle green lighting, mixed with the sounds from the performers, evoked a lagoon-like setting. From this misty, magical place, “Circle/Landfall” plays between text and song in both French and English to tell the loose narrative of a healer/witch and a lost man. Wooden poles arranged by the performers create a moveable landscape throughout. 

June 11
Coyote Arts Percussive Performance Association, Byron Chief Moon - La Nouvelle Scène
By Brittany Duggan

The newest work from Byron Chief-Moon, artistic director of Coyote Arts Percussive Performance Association, expresses the powerful, while immeasurable, connection the Blood-Kainai First Nations tribe maintains with mother earth. The work, titled “Ihtsi-pai-tapi-yopa: Essence of Life - Essence”, begins with two men in long-sleeved shirts and skirts of black mesh, each with pieces of long white ribbon sewn in vertical lines over top. A third male dancer appears intermittently – a possible overlooking elder – wearing a brown suit that correlates with the powerful image of the bear projected throughout. The elder’s presence on stage evokes a calm and reflective state, whereas his absence invites the other two dancers to freely experience their modern world. In a most distinct movement section, an energized solo fuses what appears to be traditional dance with hip hop. Projections, illustrating stories of the Blood-Kinai tribe, by artist Linda Kirby, assist in providing context for the traditions and values these dancers carry with them as they move through space. At the end, the two dancers follow the elder off stage as he plays his flute. I was left with an imprinted image of the respect shared by these dancers and by their people.

June 11
COBA (Collective Of Black Artists) - Shenkman Arts Centre
By Brittany Duggan

Diasporic Dimensions, a program of three works by co-founders BaKari E. Lindsay and Charmaine Headley, formed COBA’s festival presentation. First on the program was “MaaKeeba”, a tribute to the late, legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba. During the work’s playful beginning, the dancers’ energetic movement reveals glimpses of bright fabric otherwise hidden under their black dresses. The soloist in the red skirt (no doubt meant to be Makeba herself) was a highlight in this fiery dance that conversely expresses caring and protective qualities through inviting, expansive arms and a softening torso. “Passage” equally displays the dancers’ theatricality, and explores a variety of musical melodies to reflect the traditions of African storytelling. In the four-part final piece, “Mande Variations”, the dancers wear orange and animal print dresses. Entering and exiting the space with ease, the dancers join in unison at several points to create a deeply rooted group dynamic. The juxtaposition between tension and release in the dancers’ movements plays with the contrast between the light strings of the Kora and the heavier tones of the drums. 

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