Shadows, Portraiture, Mime and Velvet

Four works old and new at 3,2,1 Dance! By Lori Straus
  • Robert Glumbek and Yvonne Ng in Tedd Robinson's Stone Velvet / Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
  • Jasmyne Fyffe in her own work Corridor / Photo courtesy of presenter
  • Robert Desrosiers in his own work At the Bottom of the Pool / Photo courtesy of presenter


3,2,1 Dance! is a contemporary dance performance of four pieces, with choreography by Robert Desrosiers, Robert Glumbek, Jasmyn Fyffe and Tedd Robinson. The show’s tour had eight stops including one at The Registry Theatre in Kitchener, Ontario, on February 7, where I caught it.

The show opened with a real treat – At the Bottom of the Pool – Robert Desrosiers’s first solo after a multi-year break from dance due to a hip injury. Known for his theatrical productions featuring extensive costumes, props and scenery, Desrosiers offers a more minimal aesthetic with this work. His costuming – the black outfit and white gloves of a mime – at first seemed uncharacteristic for the choreographer of the ostentatious Blue Snake.

Not so. The small theatre and simple visuals brought an intimacy with the renowned choreographer that pulled the viewer in deeper than the most lavish sets possibly could. The white gloves served to highlight the expressive and fluttery movements of his hands, at times reminiscent of a bird or butterfly and at other times of a young child carried away with the excitement of moving.

In addition, Desrosiers was the only artist in the show who had live accompaniment. Composer/cellist/singer Anne Bourne’s music provided a haunting sonic backdrop that played against the lightness of mime. The piece ended with the mime trapped in his imaginary box, a spotlight shining down on him. Despite the mime’s explorations, he was still trapped in his own world.

The second piece was Contemplation of Betrayal, choreographed by Robert Glumbek, artistic associate of ProArteDanza. Inspired by the Jack Vettriano painting of the same name, Glumbek questions and animates what came before and after the moment captured on the canvas: a man, his hands in his pockets, seduces a woman. Her eyes are downcast, her chin lifted slightly in his direction, and her body leaning towards him. As the program notes, “We will never really know. Our reaction and choices to resolve certain pivotal moments in our lives sets in motion a range of possible outcomes.”

The piece opened with two dancers onstage, Benjamin Landsberg and Julie Pecard. Landsberg’s convulsions and near-collapses at the onset, whereby he almost pulled Pecard down with him (he’s holding her hand), made clear his character was struggling with something great. However, after Pecard freed herself and left his side, Landsberg’s movements became definitive steps within codified dance technique. Once he was joined by Lonii Garnons-Williams, though, his movements again became spasmodic and incoherent. Landsberg’s character was struggling with something but found momentary relief in solitude. Is this what brings him to cheat on his women?

Landsberg wore a simple brown outfit while Garnons-Williams and Pecard wore identical grey, fitted, sleeveless dresses with loose skirts that reached mid-thigh. The costume choice for the female dancers left me wondering if Landsberg’s character perceives all women the same.

The lighting and a small amount of mist added to the visually muted feeling of the piece, as though the audience were watching a dream unfold in the dark corners of the mind. The explosive choreography and variety of music felt like the emotions that push through in dreams, even when everything else looks muted.

In the third piece, Jasmyn Fyffe broke onto the stage in a mess, dropping her props all over the place in Corridor. Clothing, shoes and a whole lotta paraphernalia flew all over her beautifully laid-out path, denoted by a broad piece of cloth. Fyffe wore the bare minimum: a crop top and boxer briefs. To the viewer, she was naked, her business all out in the open, in disarray, in front of everyone’s eyes.

As her path became messy the cloth crumpled and she became entangled in it. As she struggled to gather up the pieces, the feeling in the room was that almost everyone was with her. When she struggled to find her balance while holding up a broken umbrella – a shield that could not possibly protect her from the storm – we knew we’d been there too.

Twice, in the middle and at the end, a bright light created an enlarged shadow of Fyffe along the scrim. It could have been the shadow she leaves behind as she moves through life, showing us the great effects she has on others, or it could have just as easily been the overburdening expectations people have of her. When the piece came to an end, Fyffe neared the shadow, reducing its size, and the audience believed that maybe, just maybe, she would overcome her struggles. But the shadow never became smaller than the dancer, and as the lights dimmed we had a final answer.

Finally, Tedd Robinson’s Stone Velvet, commissioned by tiger princess dance projects seventeen years ago, proved itself as a lastingly phenomenal piece that brings together Glumbek and Yvonne Ng. When they first appeared onstage, their opposites jumped out at the viewer: Glumbek’s height and lack of hair, Ng’s lack of height and overflowing abundance of hair; he a man, she a woman; he is fair, she is dark.

This visual binary moves into the choreography too. Ng’s movements were usually well-aligned and graceful, even during the sharper passages. In contrast, Glumbek’s were often awkward and angular, almost like a teenager who grew too fast and was waiting for his body to catch up.

Ng began and ended the piece by almost touching a prop rock with her toe, as if to suggest she almost knows what she wants out of life, almost knows how to approach it, but that she will never come close to knowing the answers to those questions. Like the horizon or a vision of utopia, she would never reach it.

What was reached that night, though, was a collection of some of Canada’s finest modern and contemporary choreographers, including the solo that marked the return of Desrosiers.

See the video excerpts of the works >> bit.ly/2olB6hx


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