Moving Through Time and Technology 

By Philip Szporer
  • Photo by David Cannon 
  • Photo by/de Martin Kusch 

Cibler & Passage

Kondition Pluriel, Danse K par K/Karine Ledoyen

Montréal  March 18-21, 2009; March 11-14, 2009 

“Cibler” by Karine Ledoyen (Danse K par K)

Karine Ledoyen’s “Cibler” reveals itself like a visual diary of private allusions, and this group work gives us a sense of why people have been talking up this next-generation choreographer.

She is a can-do kind of dancemaker who has forged ahead in a region of the country that for too long seemed a bit off the beaten track. Certainly there’s been dance in Québec City – groups like Danse Partout have a long history in the area, and for years the École de Danse du Québec (EDQ) has trained generations of dancers. A more recent shift began when Harold Rhéaume moved back to the city of his birth in 2000 to invest his energies and that of his company, Le Fils D’Adrien Danse, in the capital. La Rotonde, a growing presenter/venue, and Lydia Wagerer’s work with CorresponDanse, have been other catalysts for the area.

In many respects, Ledoyen is the inheritor of some of that invigorating will and desire to make new strides in the region. She grew up in the town of Saint-Pamphile and received her dance degree in 1999 from the EDQ. She is known for her remarkable efforts in bringing new audiences to dance with her St-Jean-Port-Joli outdoors events, Osez!, just outside of the capital region, which between 2002 and 2008 have broadened to include international involvement of dancers and choreographers. Her company, Danse K par K, took flight in 2005. “Cibler” – the French for “to target” – is the first group work that Ledoyen has presented in Montréal.

Just outside the entrance to the theatre space, a curtain of red and white strands of yarn provides the gateway to an imagined world where personal narrative and inward reflection are revealed. Simplicity is Ledoyen’s best friend, as in the opening sequence in which a young woman in a functional black dress walks calmly and progressively across the lip of the stage space, a pair of long pruning shears in her hands. More strands of the yarn serve as a cordon. The soundtrack (by Mathieu Doyon) is equally enticing – the sounds of birds tweeting layered with an orchestra warming up, and the faint voice of a male opera singer rising and falling away – and casts it own spell, suggesting nostalgia and a hint of spring.

The cutter snips away at the threads, creating an opening in the curtain through which we see another young woman, nude, her back to the audience, situated in an apparent maze of strands intersecting the space. The woman doesn’t seem to be attached to any of these strands, but soon all is revealed. (The lighting, by Denis Guérette, adds to the geometry.) She seems nonplussed that the other young woman is cutting, slowly and with a steady pace. This second woman is stationary, shifting her weight from one leg to another. The methodical snipping continues until this young woman at the centre of the stage is left linked to a single string of yarn, giving the appearance of a colt that is ready to bolt. She doesn’t get far. Once this last strand is cut, she succumbs, and falls to the floor, limp and lifeless. It’s a powerful moment, and serves as the key metaphor for the piece: life is tenuous and in a second everything can alter, and someone can leave us.

The woman disposes of her implement, and comes downstage, picks up a plastic bouquet of flowers, then another and moves offstage. Another woman, actress Sophie B. Thibeault, enters and convincingly tells of a recurring dream in which there are three women. They could be sisters, she says, in a calm, direct manner. She tells that the women in the dream each perform a particular action: one measures and holds the thread, another rolls it up, while the third cuts the strand. The story is repeated, each time at a quicker pace, with a trio of young women Véronique Jalbert, Sonia Montminy and Ariane Voineau (replacing Julie Belley on opening night) falling to the ground as Thibeault speaks. Are they merely abstract evocations of her personality?

Ledoyen has revealed in interviews that the dance was inspired by the suicide of a close friend. The tale told by Thibeault brings to mind the three Fates – mythological divinities of Destiny and Necessity – who spin, measure and cut the fragile thread of life.

Sequences erupt on stage, with lots of movement that unfortunately doesn’t build or connect in a coherent manner. It’s not that the dancers don’t have conviction, but the episodic ensemble sections seem like uncomplimentary tangential ideas. There are repeated images that have lasting impact: one of the performers propping up a limp, lifeless body has its own sustained gravitas. In another sequence, a dancer runs with great speed and leaps into the arms of another dancer. Back and forth she goes between one dancer and another. The volatile impact of a body slamming against another kicks things up a notch. When, at the end of the hour-long piece, Thibeault comes forward, she is brimming with emotion. Tears cascade down her face, and she ironically cries out, “Winter can be really long!”. The line provokes a fine crackle of laughter from the seasonally challenged crowd. In the final moments, snowflakes gently fall on the bare shoulders of the three dancers directly upstage. Cibler is a layered and packed theatrical piece that works best in its simplicity, and gives an indication of Ledoyen’s choreographic skill as well as her intimate, reflective nature. 

“Passage” by Kondition Pluriel 

Kondition Pluriel’s recent offering is an interface event that mixes movement, video, installation, sound and other technological concerns. The recipe, under the direction of Québec-born choreographer Marie-Claude Poulin and Austrian-born media installation artist Martin Kusch, is seductive. Between 6pm and 9pm audience members enter at pre-appointed times (I believe they were scheduled fifteen minutes part). Viewers can remain at will in the theatre, coming and going throughout the evening, if desired.

Large, white curved panels serve as dividers and screens in the space. There is no seating. Several stations are placed strategically, allowing the viewers’ motions to shape the sound or the colour of the projections, for instance. Viewers can choose to interact, or they can do nothing and just watch whatever is going on. All of the stations are very tactile, and manipulation on the part of the audience member is definitely encouraged. You can stick your hand in a furry contraption and thereby raise or lower the volume, which I’m guessing is sensor activated. Or you can just wave your hand at the mouth of said apparatus and do the same. (I actually stuck my foot in it, and thought someone or something might give it a good bite at the other end.) Another device allows the viewer to stand on a small square device to trigger sounds in low frequencies. Surrounding all of this technology are technicians seated at computer screens, no doubt tracking all the activity and enhancing the effects.

Veteran dancer Catherine Tardif is the solo performer, harnessed with sensors, and wearing a corset-like costume. She is poker-faced, her eyelids droopy (no doubt – after three hours of perpetual movement I’d be a bit weary myself, no matter how hazy the choreographic propositions).

The people who attended during my time in the space were rubbing on Tardif’s electronic sensor, attached to her back, trying to stimulate interaction and movement invention. Others mimicked a simple phrase that one person in the crowd devised – a sway of the upper body – perhaps trying to engage her in a similar activity. The thrill of being a catalyst in the performance space has its momentary pleasure – or several minutes of satisfaction at least – and the tactile nature of the installation was user-friendly. The overall concept of interaction was easily understood. After twenty minutes, I’d had enough, and needed to move on. 

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