Tentacle Tribe and Wants&Needs Danse: the best of Montreal modern dance

Tentacle Tribe photo Tentacle Tribe photo

I’m going to go out on a limb here and just assert that Emmanuelle Lê Phan and Elon Höglund of Tentacle Tribe simply have no bones. Lots of muscle, yes, but no actual skeleton. There’s no other explanation for the ways they bend their bodies in space, the way they can deflate like bouncy toys that someone pulled the plug on, and then re-inflate as if being filled again with air, the way they move like underwater valves and crankshafts and pistons. Their very unique, original dance style is rooted in breakdancing, club dancing, and street dancing, as well as in a modern, experimental dance sensibility. They work together seamlessly, the way those little black birds fly together and swoop en masse in the sky, as if communicating telepathically about their next move.

Tentacle Tribe. Photo Belinda Lawley

Tentacle Tribe. Photo Belinda Lawley


Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid is a sort of love story, a story of birth and intimacy and death, of waking up in the morning, living your life, and going back to sleep at night, the universal story of how any specific choice you make can lead to a myriad of outcomes. But it is also a dance about dance, about movement, about different ways to be fluid in space, about breaking down the biomechanics of an act as simple as getting out of bed. Lê Phan and Hoglund move like squid, like sea anemones, like jellyfish, but they also on occasion break into a sort of pixilation, where the movement shudders momentarily in its fluidity, where it encounters brief intervals of resistance or blockage or stopping and restarting. It is a creation concerned with creativity and connectedness. It is utterly unique and refreshing.


Wants&Needs Danse’s Chorus II is a different creature altogether. Much more static, ritualistic even, Sasha Kleinplatz’s choreography was inspired by watching her grandfather pray: his physical gravitas belied the tenderness and solemnity of a community of men engaged in prayer. The opening was the highlight of the work in my opinion: utter darkness while a droning hum fills the space, then, just when you think it’s gone on too long, a sudden, blinding white light illuminates six men dressed in ill-fitting black suits and white shirts, in various positions on the stage. One man hangs by his fingers from a metal wall at the back of the stage, another stands on his head in the middle, and so on. This sudden shift from utter darkness to blinding light is repeated several times, with the men in different, static tableaux. A live musician plays a middle-eastern sounding wind instrument, and later a string instrument, and a big drum, and controls electronic sounds as well. Over the course of the piece the men run, roll, and are drawn like magnets to the wall (I wondered if it perhaps represented the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a remnant of the ancient Temple that is considered the most holy site for religious Jews around the world). The also support each other, literally, putting each other back on their feet when they fall, carrying them to the wall when, in one case, they die.


Sasha Kleinplatz and Andrew Tay

Sasha Kleinplatz and Andrew Tay. Wants&Needs Danse.

Chorus II is interesting and successful in its own way, but somewhat opaque, slow, and static. It was almost a study in presence more than movement, stillness more than motion. Still, the combination of prayer and action, of masculinity and vulnerability, of individuality and community was thought-provoking and moving.


Tentacle Tribe and Wants&Needs Danse play as part of Danse Danse’s season at Cinquième Salle at Place des Arts (175 Ste Catherine West) October 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 at 8pm. Sold out.