Warehaus dance collective showcases the talents of SFU grads

Sofija Polovina, Megan Hunter, and Akeisha de Baat in Doe.

Warehaus dance collective, presented by Dance Allsorts, packed the Roundhouse Theatre with the performance of Doe, a new work, and VITA which — according to the post-show talkback — has been majorly reworked since last spring. The audience filtered into the theatre in waves, buzzing to see the three women in Warehaus (Akeisha de Baat, Megan Hunter, Sofija Polovina) perform again after the successful debut of VITA at Launch 2015 last spring.

The performance was a triple bill: the two pieces by Warehaus were interspersed with a short work by guest choreographer Mahaila Patterson-O’Brien. I felt a swelling pride at the start of the show when the presenter announced that every person that we would see onstage was a graduate from SFU’s School of Contemporary Arts. It is inspiring to see the amount of creativity and talent coming out of this university and pouring into the professional arts community in Vancouver.

Warehaus kicked off the show with the 12-minute Doe. I recognized the costumes immediately from the show’s poster — three women in loose suit jackets posed identically on a staircase.

In Doe, Warehaus adopted structured body shapes associated with ballet and modern dance styles only to distort and fragment them. The soundscore was also divided: the sounds of human whispers or voices were followed by silence and then dizzyingly pounding music. Doe confidently broke down and merged dance styles. Moments of smooth unison were interrupted by angular, jarring arm and leg movements as if someone had thrown classical repertoire into a blender.

The second piece, For the Time Being, choreographed by Mahaila Patterson-O’Brien (another SFU graduate), made exceptional use of movement, lighting, and music. It transported us into a lonely world where only two bodies existed — arms and legs carving with precision in silence through a thick layer of fog onstage.

The light of two projectors behind the dancers caused a tunnel of vision through the fog that made the stage appear deeper than it was. They reflected brilliantly off the dancers’ white costumes to turn them different colours when the fog lifted and the music started. The virtuosic duet and the building soundscore (fusing a David Bowie cover and music from a video game) combined to give the piece an awesome vibrancy and edge.

Warehaus finished the show with the longer piece VITA. The first ten minutes of the piece had me leaning forward in my seat — and I was not the only one — squinting to try and decipher what exactly was happening onstage.

Three orange shins upstage lit up so gradually it felt like time slowed down. They barely outlined the dancers’ heads and shoulders, which struggled to lift or move as if magnetic with the ground. Synthesized music with a double thump like a heartbeat grew louder until the dancers’ backs finally came into view, muscles defined in the low-level lighting and shadow.

VITA was full of passion — once the dancers got moving their smooth, silky movement phrases starkly contrasted with the harsh industrial soundtrack. The image of the three dancers with their heads thrown back, arm and back muscles flexing and contorting, made the piece feel like a battle between fleshy human bodies and a violently mechanical world.

Though different, the two Warehaus Collective pieces were poignant and innovative. The three dancers are highly receptive to each other as they perform. They show a unique aptitude to embody different movement qualities and rapidly shift between them, revealing the influence of gaga technique within the collective.

After having seen these three exceptionally strong performances, I look forward to seeing the future works of Warehaus and Mihaila Patterson-O’Brien