Crumpled Juxtapositions 

By Kathleen Smith
  • Jasmyn Fyffe in Karen Kaeja’s Uncover / Photo by E.S. Cheah 
  • Lewis, Jessica Tomasone, Jonna Abrams, Jasmyn Fyffe and Melissa Noventa in Current (Volume two) by Fyffe / Photo by E.S. Cheah 
  • Kyra Jean Green and Jasmyn Fyffe in their own work Crumpled Juxtaposition / Photo by E.S. Cheah 


Jasmyn Fyffe Dance

Toronto March 14 - 17, 2012 

Interlock is a collection of dances assembled by Toronto’s Jasmyn Fyffe to highlight her own choreography and that of several colleagues. Comprised of six works, the two-hour-long program covers a lot of ground, some of it compelling, some of it not. Life Is kicked off the evening in confusing fashion. Choreographed by Patrizia Gianforcaro as a stylized dinner party with nine guests seated around a table, the work is a catalogue of human behaviours – the feuding couple, the shy guest, the unselfconscious flirt. There are some evocative solos and duets and some imaginative group moves around the table, many of them played for laughs. But the action never flows smoothly – you are aware of a cue-to-cue quality of fragmentation that I don’t believe the choreographer intended. Life Is was set up with a video relay and monitor component, but it wasn’t working at the show I attended so I am not sure if that would have altered the lack of fluidity. 

There were three further big ensemble works on offer: Current (volume 2), choreographed by Fyffe, is completely original yet somehow not fully realized. Fyffe is so good at integrating street dance and Afro-Caribbean vocabularies with contemporary dance in a way that feels completely natural – no forced marriages of mismatched moves here. Nonetheless, while they do hold your attention initially, the dances feel a bit superficial, like there are no real depths to explore. The surface values – that interesting mix of dance styles, the energy and enthusiasm of the performers – are just fine. But I want more from dance than to be entertained. 

Conflicted Resolutions, also by Fyffe, is the result of a Dance Ontario commission for the 2012 Dance Weekend. It has some memorable moments and some striking imagery featuring feathers and dramatic lighting. The movement is precise and emphatic, with lots of lunges and warrior poses. But the overall effect is mysterious and indulgent – are the performers angels? The damned? The piece gets cooking in its final moments as the lights and the music pick up. The rest of the audience seemed to love it; personally I was mentally long gone by this point.

Fyffe also choreographed Pulse, another crowd-pleasing ensemble work that closed the show to a mostly Motown soundtrack of danceable hits from the sixties and seventies. The work works hard –- comedic lip-syncing, audience participation, fun costuming, bubbly attitude –- and you leave the theatre smiling. Nothing wrong with that. Ultimately though, Pulse suffers from the same ‘unfinished’ sensation as the other pieces for large casts. As I write this, the works blend together in my mind with too little to distinguish them as conceptually or aesthetically distinct from each other. 

Two works – a solo and a duet – do have a mind-sticking coherence and, not coincidentally I think, both allow the performers to shine to the full extent of their capabilities. Crumpled Juxtapositions was choreographed by Fyffe and Kyra Jean Green and was also performed by these two very strong dancers. According to a program note, it is the product of in-studio improvisations exploring the differences between Fyffe’s movement vocabulary (she trained in contemporary dance, hip hop and Afro-Caribbean as well as ballet) and Green’s (she has more of a classical ballet background) as well as some common ground. The differences and commonalities are perhaps not so pronounced but the piece is sure fun to watch. Finally, the solo Uncover was choreographed by Karen Kaeja for Fyffe, who performs it, and it’s the gem in this show. Performed atop a slowly inflating air mattress, the dance is an exercise in holding the core in the midst of a continually destabilizing environment. It’s a great metaphor and it is well served by the physicality of the dance. Fyffe remains rock solid, strong and grounded if a bit tippy at times. It’s not until the mattress is finally firm that she loses her footing and falls off. As the mattress then noisily deflates, Fyffe rides it down, prostrate, exhausted. Fyffe is an indisputably talented performer and dancemaker, and Interlock is a testament to her generosity as well. The program was clearly a labour of love for all involved. More than polish and conceptual rigour (which will come with more time and care), it’s this kind of dedication and exuberance that bodes well for a bright future for Fyffe and company. 

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