Bodies pulsate as if being electro-shocked, then suddenly dissolve into lyrical fluidity. Compulsively repetitive movements bring to mind the tics of a Tourette’s sufferer, while rows of elegantly pointed toes recall a classical ballet class. Ambiguous pas-de-deux punctuate a choreography that culminates in a schizophrenic ballerina wearing a black tutu being handled by her male counterpart. Ginette Laurin’s latest work, Soif, covers the range of human thirst, primal and instinctive, for love, life, movement, order, sanity.
Created for the 30th-anniversary celebration of her dance company O Vertigo, Soif had its world premiere Thursday night at the Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts under the banner of Danse Danse. Laurin, a veritable institution on the Quebec and Canadian dance scene, worked closely with the eight dancers to create her latest work. She gave each dancer a catalogue of 30 everyday actions, and asked them to concentrate on how each one is initiated.
As she explains, “I worked on a movement’s genesis, how a gesture is initiated, its momentum in the moment when the body is propelled by a specific intention. I kept only that momentum so as to create a language consisting of a series of thrusts and attacks. The piece demonstrates in vibrant fashion how the dancer plunges into the action and into life itself, a portrayal of the dancer’s desire to express ideas and emotions through movement.”
Laurin’s approach was most obvious when individual dancers came to the front of the stage, looking out into the audience like primates in a zoo look out at visitors, desperately but unintelligibly trying to communicate. With our focus narrowed to one dancer, we could actually see the spark of energy enter the body, make it twist and contort, then finally leave. The frequent duets and larger ensemble segments likewise revealed Laurin’s interest in the impetus of movement, the genesis of energy and its course through the body and the way that initial force can propel the body into an infinite variety of actions.
Michel Côté’s sound montage and Martin Labrecque’s lighting were integral to the show, helping to structure the enormous diversity of moods over the course of the hour-long performance. The opening brought to mind birds and bird calls, which were enhanced by the dancers’ own vocalizations as well as their movements. Part-way through, the stage went black, then each dancer came onstage holding a flashlight behind their legs as they pliéd, creating the effect of so many frogs’ legs bending and straightening across the stage. Neo-baroque string duets accompanied neo-classical, Mark Morris-inspired segments, while electronic sounds propelled the more frenetic movements. The final scene featured a primal mass of naked dancers swarming in a chiaroscuro twilight, the birth of desire itself, the ultimate thirst.
O Vertigo was at Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts Oct. 1, 2, 3, and 4.