Register Monday | June 17 | 2019

Bright lights in the midst of barren trees

I feel relieved in strange way that December and winter snows are here. November was an in between month that I seemed to literally spend in transit between training, rehearsal and teaching. George Bush got elected and I turned thirty. Let’s move on.

What are we doing anyway. We go through so many public spaces avoiding eye contact and brushing past one another. I was reading Billions and Billions by Carl Sagan on the metro. It managed to renew some of my hope for humanity and wonder in the universe, but then I would look around and just wonder how the hell people can come together to change anything.

Well, two young women choreographers managed to create some life affirming dance that was a welcome break from the peeing in the bucket, naked existential angst that can sometimes characterize contemporary dance. Ghesolaine Dote and Tracey McNeil deserve credit for self producing successful full length pieces and cheering me up in the midst of the cold November rain.

Ghesolaine Doté’s piece L’Amentation was performed in the church above Theatre du Jesu. Ghesolaine has lived in Montreal for seven years but she hails from the Ivory Coast.
Her work utilizes contemporary vocabulary with an African sensibility.

She opened with a solo that demonstrated a breathy, expansive style and performed with strength and vulnerability. Her group work was traditional in that it used a lot of unison and clear cannons but the commitment of the dancers made the arrangements work. Acrobatic movements and rhythmic sections also off set the recognizable vocabulary and gave the work an unusual flair. The humble soulfulness of all the performers made L’Amentation a nourishing piece to watch. The work offered harmony rather than seeking to impress and that is a gift and a welcome change.

Return to Sender
was completely different stylistically although created by another emerging talent. Tracey McNeil presented her first full length work at Studio 303,
and offered up an impressive blend of theatre, dance, video and music.

This is the fourth piece I have seen by McNeil and while each piece has varied in tone her aesthetic is recognizable. Besides being a choreographer, Tracey is also a photographer, musician, and visual artist. These other creative skills serve to strengthen the depth of her vision, and define the parameters of the stark, quirky universe where her dances take place. There is a quality of animation that stems from overexposed lighting on luminescent white costumes; as well as the characters that emerge from her idiosyncratic movement.

In Return To Sender
, McNeil allowed her precise choreography to be blurred around the edges. The topic centered on the state of being too busy to care for other peoples feelings. Movements were tossed and thrown in the rush of following a personal agenda. The staging succeeded in situating the dancers as clear characters within a strained relationship. Dean Makarenko and Katie Ward were truly funny, moved beautifully and breathed life into a bizarre but conceivable reality. The dance sections show versatility compositionally and video and music were weaved skillfully into the work.

The devices of video, music and text are common to contemporary dance but there use often seems like a haphazard attempt to create meaning. In Return to Sender the elements opened up different aspects of one reality and created a captivating ride.

Maybe there is a Solstice at the end of this darkening tunnel.