By Tessa Perkins
Oath-Midnight Rain | Beijing Modern Dance Company
A bird, a fish, a mosquito, a blade of grass, and a flower make their way into the audience. One woman is in tears; she has been so moved by their performance. The mosquito gives her a long hug. Beijing Modern Dance Company presented their philosophical work on reincarnation and liminal midnight transition to a rapt audience. Choreographer Gao Yanjinzi explained that the show was about what happens after death, where we go, and how we could be reborn.
Through the various plant and animal characters, Yanjinzi explores what it would be like to be reincarnated as one of those creatures. A sixth character, a bride dressed in an elaborate red dress, represented the thread of life, or the soul that was present in all the other characters. She appeared at the beginning and end of each segment, and was an integral part of the finale that had all the dancers connected by a long, red rope signifying the interconnectedness of all life.
Without the explanation in the program and from the choreographer before the show, it would not have been obvious what this show was about. Aside from that, this was a stunning show that gave Vancouverites a chance to see modern dance from afar — the Beijing Modern Dance Company’s work is a fusion of traditional Chinese forms and contemporary dance, with elaborate costumes and makeup that we are not accustomed to seeing in a contemporary dance piece. I particularly enjoyed the flower as he opened and closed his petals (a full tulle skirt) to a slow mournful song. The mosquito was also captivating as he swung on a long bar just above the stage. The ending was a clear indication of the continuum of life that wrapped up the piece in a wonderfully peaceful, reassuring way.
EDGE Films: Best of F-O-R-M | Best of Dances on Screen
This compilation of short films from the 2016 and 2017 Festival of Recorded Movement showcased dance in the broader sense of the body in motion. Some of the films featured dance in a more traditional way, but most of them were studies on a particular scene or theme, a moment in life that is heightened by a study of the way bodies are moving in those moments.
The highlight of this program by far was the final film, Hell You Talmbout, by Denzel Boyd, Tyler Rabinowitz, and Joseph Webb, and featuring students of Northwest Tap Connection. As they shout the names of the victims of police brutality in the United States, these dancers pounded their tap shoes in protest and as a reminder of their history of resistance and resilience. Not only was this work emotionally powerful, it’s full of impressive tap dancing and filmed beautifully.
Similarly, Body Rites by Naomi Berrio-Allen is said to be a response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, although that wasn’t obvious in the film. A group of dancers moved around a bare concrete parking garage, using the light from the evening sun to highlight their movements. This was a beautiful piece of choreography enhanced through film.
Others were more abstract such as La Version De Nadie in which Pablo Arturo Paz stands under a stream of gold glitter wearing an ornate face mask covered in golden sequins. Or Heather Lamoureux’s Mother’s Map that was a series of pastoral scenes of women sitting on a riverbank, walking through a field, or suddenly falling on the grass. The meaning of all of this was not clear.
I enjoyed Faux Solo by Ralph Escamillan and Nancy Lee, a straight up solo dance that was augmented with film cuts and editing to become even more captivating. The cuts were placed as he changed clothes with no break in the fast-paced, expansive choreography. In It tastes like you by Joseph Lee, a woman stands at a cutting board and as she chops other dancers stand behind her, as if they are other versions of herself brought to mind through her repetitive, meditative actions.
Edge 1 | Logarian Rhapsody — Alexandra Elliott Dance/Choreography by Tedd Robinson | Weave…part one — Yvonne Ng/tiger princess dance projects | Phasmida & Scorpiones — Chick Snipper
Holding a granny smith apple, Alexandra Elliott and Ian Mozdzen whispered urgently about desire, freedom, and temptation in Logarian Rhapsody. It’s as if they are in an other-worldly Garden of Eden as they struggle to resist taking a bite out of the apple. Their intense performance had them constantly shaking, viscerally speaking to us as if to save us from a similar fate. It was difficult to hear what they were saying at times as there were other recorded, whispering voices surrounding them — perhaps other voices in their heads. It was satisfying in the end to see them finally take a bite out of the apple.
Yvonne Ng’s solo about her mother’s life was a personal narrative told through a mixture of words and movement. As Ng told her story, she interpreted it with her slow, careful poses. Many long pauses and a sense of humour gave this piece colour as Ng said things like “It’s interesting how much fodder you can get from your parents’ lives.”
If the program notes didn’t describe Chick Snipper’s Phasmida & Scorpiones as being an interpretation of a stick insect and a scorpion and their predatory habits, I would never have guessed that’s what it was about. Nevertheless, Jess Ames and Julianne Chapple were fiercely committed to their animal alter-egos as they came together with equal and opposing force and showed the juxtaposition of these very different creatures.
Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance was held at various venues, including Firehall Arts Centre from July 6–15, 2017.