By: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer
Known as one of the Lower Mainland’s oldest contemporary dance festivals, Dancing on the Edge (DOTE) did not let a global pandemic stop them from running their 32nd year of annual performances. Expectedly, this year’s festival ran almost entirely virtually — with the exception of a minimal amount of performances — and still included a diverse selection of works, artists, and (synchronous) viewing times. As a retired classical and contemporary dancer myself, I very willingly sat through almost 20 minutes of DOTE’s combination of works, Edge Six.
DOTE offered events of different lengths and ticket prices, some of which (like the event I attended), only required a five-dollar reservation fee and were otherwise entirely by donation. However, in-person events at venues naturally called for ticket purchasing, which were a little pricier. Since all virtual performances were filmed from the venues themselves with full stage setups and professional lighting, I would say that a five-dollar fee was a relatively fair price, especially considering the importance of supporting local artists at this time.
Edge Six was streamed on YouTube on two separate dates and included Rachel Meyer’s, Excerpts of a Work-in-Progress, and Josh Martin’s (Company 605), Brimming (also a work-in-development). I attended the first night of Edge Six, which was also coincidentally the world premiere of both pieces.
The event started with Meyer’s (choreographer) Excerpts of a Work-in-Progress, featuring performers Josh Martin, Stéphanie Cyr, and Brandon Lee Alley. The piece was accurately described as “a work-in-progress,” clocking in at around five minutes in length. It appeared to be more of a montage of experimental movement combinations, and since there was little to no explanation from Meyer, that’s likely what it actually was. Although the choreography was excellent, to those unfamiliar with contemporary dance, it could potentially be difficult to understand and fully appreciate as it wasn’t fully developed (e.g. a specific stage setup, storyline, etc). From my interpretation, Meyer’s choreography experimented with levels of movement, limb placement in correlation to the floor, and flow.
On the contrary, Josh Martin’s Brimming was a more polished and developed work of art. Around 15 minutes in length, it made up most of Edge Six. The self-performed solo work “investigat[ed] the body as a container” and centred on ideas of entrapment where the “performer [is] trapped inside their own body.” The piece included a full stage setup, with a container-resembling space, dark lighting, and only a chair as a prop. As described by the artist, “the dance is a meeting of both the seen and unseen [ . . . ] [the piece] explores this shape we are in, how it holds us, and what might eventually spill out of one’s self when the walls begin to bend.” The choreography consisted almost entirely of animated movements — almost robotic, and recognizably depicted the artistic themes of being trapped. Martin’s execution and acting of how such themes manifest physically and psychologically were brilliant and spot-on; I was particularly impressed by the choreographer’s utilization of space within the boundaries of the confined setup and how Martin’s movements captured the complicated relationship between a dancer and their space. An emotional, engaging, and breathtaking work from start to finish.
It’s safe to say that experiencing dance through a screen is not nearly the same experience. Inevitably, there were aspects that felt like they would have been more impactful in-person. Either way, I am really proud to see the dance community persevering in these hard times to continue to deliver events like this one, that contribute to the artistry and culture of the Lower Mainland.