New Creators on the Montréal Scene 

By Philip Szporer
  • Barthélémy Glumineau in his own work “La chasse aux papillons (divertissement pour chiens)” / Photo by Nicholas Minns 
  • Cassandra Julien Bastien, Melina Stinson, Nicolas Labelle and Stéphanie Ducharme in “Aller simple” by Dominique Thomas / Photo by Nicholas Minns 
  • Aaron Carr and Anila Mazhari in “Fractured” by Evan Teitelbaum / Photo by Nicholas Minns 
  • Natalie Zoey Gauld, Lael Stellick and Mark Shaub in “The Dark Side of the Wizard of the Moon of Oz” by Allison Blakley / Photo by Nicholas Minns 
  • Kim Grenon-Morin in “Le fruit de vos entrailles est béni” by Thierry Huard / Photo by Larry Dufresne 
  • Gabrielle Martin and Andrea Legg in their own work “Chrysalis” / Photo by Stephane Cocke 
  • Andrea Legg in “Puella Falling” by Legg and David Pressault / Photo by Gilles Lacroix 

Danses buissonnières – Classe 2009 & “Surface”

Floating Seed Productions

Montréal  October 1-4 and 7-10, 2009 

Danses buissonnières – Classe 2009 Montréal: Oct 1-4, 2009

Tangente’s annual Danses buissonnières project invites proposals from emerging choreographers – mainly recent graduates of college and university programs. The stipulation is that these be original dances, not school projects, and never performed before a live audience. The selection committee for the series is composed of peers, many having appeared previously in the Danses buissonnières event. All were short works, in the ten-minute range.

Angular-faced autodidact Barthélémy Glumineau performed “La Chasse des papillons”, along with his dog, Picasso. W.C. Fields knew what he was talking about – the dog stole the show. The simple choreography involves Glumineau working with a glove, first sitting in a chair and then walking about the stage. When he applies elastics to distort his face, he fleetingly resembles Hannibal Lechter from Silence of the Lambs, but he cuts a comical figure. On cue, the cute pooch and able sidekick covers his eyes and rolls over. The audience, as if in Pavlovian response, laps it up. 

Aesthetics shifted with “Aller Simple”, from LADMMI’s Dominique Thomas, a physical quartet for three gals and a guy, set to a driving minimalist score by Steve Reich. Full of big sweeping gestures, with a TV as a symbolic prop, the piece hints at our inability to connect. 

In “Fractured”, choreographer Evan Teitelbaum from New York’s Juilliard School had the most confident dancing on the program. Five strong performers (including Teitelbaum) were featured in layered, copper-toned costumes, with dramatic, moody lighting to emphasize energetic shifts in time and space. The idea to alter perceptions through cinematographic fast-forwards and rewinds was distilled by far too many blackouts. But the pure attack and velocity of the dancing was a surprise in the confines of Tangente’s elongated studio, and the low floor work added some intense dynamics. With the right input and support, Teitelbaum may well be a talent to watch. 

Concordia’s Allison Blakely’s “The Dark Side of the Wizard of the Moon of Oz”, a recreation of ”The Wizard of Oz” as identity crisis/revelation in one young girl’s transformation to womanhood. The work was notable for its casting; fantabulous, vividly coloured and accessorized costumes; and riffing on the story of the charmed Dorothy with her three amigos and two witches in tow. Well-known and established dance artists Bill Coleman and Mark Shaub popped up as, respectively, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, with relative newcomer Lael Stallec as the Tin Man. Natalie Zoey Gauld (who has been making a name for herself in a number of recent performances) gave a nuanced performance as Dorothy, throwing some zip into the piece’s trashier sections in which the ruby-slippered gal goes wild. Blakely cuts the piece in two sections – Dorothy in wonder and Dorothy seduced – and never tempers the exaggerated facial expressions of her performers. The full-blast treatment was also in evidence with the mega-lights and the mash-up with music from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album. 

The wittily titled “Un Colon Iritable”, by Andrée-Anne Ratthé, cleverly juxtaposed extreme minimalism and a twangy, jazzy, twist-and-shout score. Her quartet of dancers stands stock still, later working unison movements effectively. Feet shift one way, then another, the performers’ faces without expression or inflection. In those sections, nothing but the squeak and squash of the rubber-soled shoes on the floor resonates. One “irritating” dancer ultimately separates from the rest of the group, and therein lies the conflict of the piece: group versus individual expression. 

Thierry Huard’s excessive “Le fruit de vos entrailles est béni” has flashes of baby Jesus, lots of dressing and undressing, props (heavy-duty crosses, a wafer, jello, water bottles), lots of grinding, plus Lamaze breathing, birthing and doses of raunch. Enough said. 

Surface (Floating Seed Productions) Montréal: Oct 7-10, 2009

Two other emerging artists – Andrea Legg and Gabrielle Martin – headlined a completely enjoyable evening in which circus arts and dance met. “Surface” was a two-part multidisciplinary performance bringing together contemporary dance, aerial arts and two original music scores (by David Drury and Kit Soden). Performed in an intimate non-traditional dance venue (Théâtre Ste-Catherine), with the audience seated (some with beers in hand) surrounding the performance area, the setting warmly recalled earlier no-frills days in Montréal’s dance scene.

“Puella Falling”, choreographed by emerging dance artist Andrea Legg collaborating with David Pressault (of David Pressault Danse), treated the theme of addiction. The piece successfully created a haunted, contained mood, with Legg initially probing the darkness, crouched on all fours, her eyes taped shut tight with thin white strips in an X, navigating on blocks of wood, slowly making her way across the narrow space, reaching and extending her limbs forward. The steady rhythm of her breath was a nice addition to Drury’s scratchy score. When a swath of black silk descends, Legg grasps and cradles herself in the folds. She removes the tape from her eyes, and then climbs higher and higher, with the audience cocking their heads upward.

Legg achieves a beautiful floating quality in her movement, and her suspension in the long shroud of cloth was breathtaking. Her seemingly effortless capacity to tumble slowly downward, and then clamor quickly up, is a measure of her physical prowess. The repeated movements become more frantic as the music takes on a choppier quality. The piece ends poetically with the silk pulled taut overhead, and Legg hovering close to the ground, upside down, spinning slowing. 

During the intermission, curtains at the back of the long rectangular theatre part to reveal two performers behind a scrim, in distorted elongated silhouette, applying powder to their bodies. “Chrysalis”, choreographed and danced by Legg and Martin, combines the aesthetic of slow-moving butoh with contemporary dance and aerial work.

Performed to Soden’s live music composition (the musicians are on a balcony), the piece opens with lights illuminating the silk, and a bundle of two tightly coiled bodies at the base of the fabric. With the emphasis on the bodies’ weight and gravity, slowly an arm, then a leg, extend from the cocoon. First Legg moves upward, then Martin, and the sense of floating and suspension that highlighted the first piece, often accomplished through held positions, returns.

Midway through, an abstract black and white paint-on-celluloid animation film consisting of moving lines and shapes, is projected on the white-powdered figures. Both have strong flexible bodies, but Martin, in particular, has a capacity for some gorgeous backward arches.

What was extremely satisfying beyond the actual performance was the duo’s ability to marshal an entire evening’s work, create a convivial environment and, through sheer constructive and commendable effort, fill the house for all four nights. 

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