After the frivolities of summer, fall can inspire introspection and—less welcomed—downright depression. While some October shows reflect the autumnal mood, others provide some much-needed relief from it. At the moment, we’re in the thick of the fall season, so here’s a quick look at some performances past as well as a few to come.
Play It Again, Indeed.
Certainly, I thought I might be in for a dark hour as I walked into Le Studio l’Agora de la Dance to see Danièle Desnoyers’s newest work, Play It Again! and saw a woman (AnneBruce Falconer) sitting in dim light, her face obscured by the cloche hat that had been pulled over her eyes. This brooding mood was soon dispelled however, when another dancer (Siôned Watkins) standing beside a piano in a back corner of the stage began a wacky knee-knocking maneuver in response to the sounds emitting from the instrument. It was odd moments like this that gave an essentially light-hearted work some substance.
In Play It Again! the age-old relationship between dance and music was pleasantly more explicit than usual thanks to Desnoyers’ sensitive collaboration with composer Jean-François Laporte, sound engineer Jean-Pierre Côté and musician Martin Ouellet. Ouellet performed Laporte’s “sound installations” using the piano’s strings rather than its keyboard. The buzzing, rattling, tapping, and sliding sounds that were produced were intriguing enough—or at least Le Carré des Lombes’ dancers thought so: Falconer, Watkins, Sophie Corriveau, Pierre Lecours, and Ken Roy all took turns hanging around the piano and its player and, with a casual elegance, took acute notice of even the tiniest pluck. Their active listening inspired something of the same in this audience member.
No wonder then that Ouellet eventually broke out on the keyboard playing “My Favorite Things,” which propelled Watkins into jump-for-joy grand jetés, shouting “Yes, yes, yes, go, man, go—catch me baby!” Play It Again! loves the small details, and I loved every knee-knocking, laid-back developé, and each tiny step in the women’s stork-like prances. In all, the performance was a display of the most articulate feet I’ve seen thus far this season.
Lost at Sea
Meanwhile, downstairs at Tangente, Nancy Leduc’s solo show Seule sur un pouf was more in keeping with the autumnal gloom. Petite in stature and build but possessing a full mane of dark hair and an expressive face, Leduc has more than the requisite dance chops (she’s studied the Stanislavsky Method). Her latest work was meant to showcase her multiple talents.
For Seule sur un pouf, Leduc takes her inspiration from Sydney Pollack’s 1969 flick, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? starring Jane Fonda. The movie recounts a gruelling 1930s dance marathon in California and the suicide of Fonda’s desperate—though seemingly upbeat—character Gloria.
While I haven’t seen the movie, the production elements of Seule sur un pouf are effective—if unexpectedly lush—in conveying Gloria’s desperation. Leduc despondently lolls about on an extravagant red couch in her Depression-era ruffled costume (fashioned by the fabulous Vandal Costumes); and there is rich lighting by Lucie Bazzo, a poignant music mix by Michael F. Côté, and Marie-Hélène Panisset’s evocative video of ocean scenery. All these details ultimately add up to a haunting experience.
Despite Leduc’s thoughtfulness in putting together such a talented production team however, her portrayal feels one-note. Though she cries uncontrollably at one point, quotes Fonda’s character with a declaration of determined cheerfulness—“Today is a glorious day!”—at another; and staggers around in red sequined shoes and worn finery with a wearied smile on her face, this—and other stage business—serves only to tell us that the woman in front of us is already dead, her story over.
During one shimmering instant at the beginning of the production, however, there is a moment in which Leduc says more than anything else that follows: Echoing the video projection of a lone figure out at sea, a foot pointing upward slowly rises from behind the couch—an image that conveys at once this woman’s aspiration, vulnerability and loneliness, and one that resonates in my memory still.