Tentacle Tribe tantalizes with Ghost

Photo © Alexandre Gilbert. Interprètes Victoria Mackenzie, Rahime Gay-Labbé, Marie-Reine Kabasha, Elon Höglund, Mecdy Jean-Pierre, Emmanuelle Lê Phan.

Tentacle Tribe’s latest, Ghost, is a 65-minute meditation on breathing, movement, rhythm, and interconnectedness.The work opens in complete darkness, and almost complete silence. The only sound is the sound of breathing—in, out, in, out, in-in, out, in-in, out. As a definite rhythm takes hold, the lights go up to reveal a group of dancers standing together, breathing as one. One of them twirls and exhales loudly, and the others literally blow in the wind like so many autumn leaves. Every inhalation pulls the group in, every exhalation disperses them. They are bound together by breath, to the point where the breath itself becomes another character in the dance, its own choreographic element.

The work unfolds as a series of sections, each with its own mood and its own movements, but all of them focusing more on the collective rather than the individual. The six dancers move as one, or at least as several facets of the same being.

Photo © Alexandre Gilbert. Interprètes Emmanuelle Lê Phan, Elon Höglund, Marie-Reine Kabasha, Mecdy Jean-Pierre.

After the initial wind scene, the music becomes more percussive, each beat seeming to pump air and life into the dancers, each absence of a strong beat freezing them or allowing them to deflate. The effect is one of hydraulics, of mechanized life forms, reminiscent of some aspects of their 2014 work, Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid. Throughout this more mechanistic section, the interconnectivity is just as strong.

Partway through the performance the dancers mysteriously don black track suits with hoodies, and the style becomes much more street-dance based than before. There are solos and duets, but in general the group still moves as an undulating whole. Movements are fluid and wavy, often emanating from the shoulders and flowing out through the arms and fingers; the effect is one of sea anemones waving in the water. They move among themselves, each dancer using the others’ bodies to flip or step or turn, each action causing an equal and opposite reaction to ripple through the group. They are like a 6-headed, 12-armed, 60-fingered being that contracts and expands like air filling the lungs, or waves under the pull of the moon.

One of the highlights is when the dancers appear with balloons instead of heads, their hoodies pulled up over their white balloon-faces, making them strangely elongated and ghost-like. One dancer performs a sort of mime to a clip of narration discussing how to confront ghosts (among other things). The others come to join him, and together enact a sort of sinister silliness of giggling and crying and pointing and bouncing. Then they free themselves of their balloon heads and reengage again as intimately communicating parts of a whole.

Tentacle Tribe, especially in its now expanded configuration (six dancers instead of the original two) is definitely an act to watch. Although Ghost is somewhat uneven—some parts are more gripping than others—at their best they exemplify what happens artistically when communication takes place on a profound, intuitive, almost spiritual level, as primal as breathing.

Tentacle Tribe is at Cinquième Salle 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 November. 8pm. Tickets here.