When you get invited to a dance show, you generally imagine that you will be witness to highly trained, artistic athletes that will delight you with their physical feats of moving poetry. Maybe you like to frequent the ballet with its pointe shoes, tutus, and virtuosity, or you’d rather take in some ballroom or hip-hop. Regardless of the genre dance is an art form that usually follows established rules of technique and aesthetics that determine whether it is worthy of the name “dance”. Contemporary dance, however, is able to break from this mold, as its creation is often in the name of pushing boundaries and exploring the limits of what is accepted as dance.
Such was the case at Tangente’s Contemporary Movement Laborary show Danses Buissonières. The French word “buissonière” translates into English as doing something other than what you are supposed to be doing, and the five pieces presented did indeed do that. Depicting subject matter from mental illness, to mythology, to social conventions, the audiences was witness to movement not normally associated with mainstream dance performances.
First was Bleach, by choreographer Philippe Dandonneau featuring two female dancers, a metal wash tub, and a whole bunch of towels in various sizes. It is described as a voyage into the minds of those who suffer from psychological disorders in the face of external pressures and how they can be erased by psychotropic drugs. The use of the laundry room props as well as the soundscape of a wash cycle brought the metaphor home. I wasn’t sure if the dancers were meant to be showing the two extremes of mental illness as one dancer’s movement was extremely minimal and she was always rubbing herself with towels, while the other’s choreography was more frenetic. However, the piece ended with a role reversal, which left the audience guessing.
The next piece was Tabouteillé, which was really fun. A commentary on social convention, awkwardness, and individuality, the movement was fitting and enjoyable. It started with the three dancers spreading bottle caps all over the floor and then standing in a triangle formation with their hand links under their crotches, standing around looking awkward. Then the movement began to explore everyday conventions such as the handshake and continued on from there. A highly enjoyable piece that displayed the absurdity of what we consider normal.
The third piece was a study of the absurd, combining voice distortion in Chinese, a man in drag, and live drums by a guy in a blazer and lycra shorts. The movement was more conventionally “dance”, but when combined with the latter elements, it fit the bill of buissonière.
Vamp was choreographed and performed by Dominique Sophie, exploring the femme fatale figure in the Greek myth about Judith who seduced and killed men. Dressed in a gauzy, draped kimono type outfit, she evoked the image of a black widow spider. The movement and lighting were minimal, and uncomfortable at the end, but it is a testament to the performer that the audience remained engaged over the course of ten minutes with not a lot happening on stage.
Mandala by the Quantum collective was the most conventional of the pieces presented. Perhaps this is why the audience was asked to come down from the seats and to encircle the stage area. Not only did this shake up the rules of dance performance, it was also an excellent choice in terms of complimenting the choreography. Beginning with a series of Greek style tableaux, the movement evolved into swirls of organic movement that reminded here of schooling fish or flocking birds, there of whirlpools or flurries of leaves in the fall. It was by far my favourite piece of the evening, and the dancers performed it beautifully.
Did Tangente’s emerging choreographers that were showcased this past weekend fulfill their title of buissonière? A resounding yes, and to the betterment of dance.
Be sure to visit Tangente’s website for upcoming shows this season at www.tangente.qc.ca. Next is Tame by Lara Kramer on October 28-31.