SFU’s Dance Mainstage was aflame with energy during the last week of November with new works by Peter Bingham, Shauna Elton, Rob Kitsos, and Lesley Telford. Nostos combined the work of choreographers, SFU dancers, live musicians, and designers based on the idea of nostalgia. The stage was literally on fire before the performance on Friday night (due to a technical malfunction), adding a little spontaneity to the evening. A flaming piece of lighting equipment fell onto the stage from the ceiling, causing a full evacuation from the Woodwards building into the cold November air. Thankfully, the performance started 45 minutes later without consequence.
The show started with the refreshing sound of a full band playing in sync. Vancouver band The Pugs and Crows established a soft melody that quickly became stuck in the minds of the audience, before they moved upstage behind a sheer curtain to be replaced by dancers in white and black. Movements in the first piece were meditative and thoughtful. The dancers shifted formations like ghosts, looking slowly behind them or down at one arm as if they had lost something. They moved in and out of the floor silently as though it were glass.
The second piece stood out the most to me. A performance of spoken word poetry by Barbara Adler coupled with rapid calculated gestures of dancers in grey and moments of gratuitous sweeping unison, the piece came together beautifully. Adler’s words took listeners into an internal world of memories: “a robin’s red breast” and “an October fire, the smell of it” felt like sad associations and moments passed. The final duets in the spotlight were a visual delight for the audience after a large amount of group choreography.
The rest of the performance was a blur of movement, as the performers rolled through the last two pieces swiftly and confidently. Certain moments of nostalgia were most effective: dancers held each other’s faces, gave hugs, lifted and repositioned each other to briefly expose moments of tragedy and celebration. The dancers showed an inexhaustible stamina in large diagonal pieces featuring floorwork and constant repetition. Fantastic projections of larger-than-life bodies moving on the screen and curtain behind them allowed the dancers to dance with their former selves.
The finale returned to the forlorn melody from the beginning, and the choreography combined the dancers’ bodies in endless ways. Nostalgia is a condition of losing touch with the present, and Nostos certainly evoked both the sadness and joy of memories past, a thrilling sense of disengagement with time, and our inability to harness it.