August, Augusta (A)
Created, choreographed, and directed by Jocelyn Mah, and winner of The Winchester Prize, this piece depicts two musicians and a trio of female dancers. The first dancer comes out dressed as a man, dancing not unlike how I recall male characters dancing in old Warner Brothers cartoons. The mood is sexy and edgy and it’s clear that she’s taking control of the space. When the two other dancers enter the room, there is a stark contrast between them and the first, until we realize that she’s not playing a man at all, but is actually in drag. Meanwhile they often interact with the two male musicians behind them, and at one point one of the dancers essentially performs a duet with the saxophonist, which is incredibly fun to watch. There are various narratives that unfold between the different characters, maintaining our interest and focus as an audience. This piece is really entertaining and yet has a surprising amount of depth.
Created by Ryan Lee, this is a modern dance piece presented in tandem with August, Augusta, that, in contrast to the themes of femininity and female sexuality that are explored in there, depicts three male dancers exploring the concept of masculinity. There are moments of aggression and provocation in the piece contrasted with vulnerability, in which a dancer collapses and the other two have to lift him back up, and support him. The piece doesn’t have an obvious narrative or set of narratives but each dancer takes a turn being at the centre, and while this is definitely a very abstract piece, their performances are infused with intense emotion that strikes me as incredibly sincere.
Created by Aria Evans and Jesse Wabegijig, Paths provides the audience with an immersive environment in which to observe modern dancers performing various (mildly interactive) vignettes exploring the “four elements and our environmental footprint on the earth.” As audience members, we’re free to explore where and when we choose, as long as we give other audience members and dancers the space they need to move around. The maze isn’t huge, and it’s easy to get through the various passages pretty quickly. There are four dancers, and several passageways, so many of the nooks are empty when you get to the end, filled with tiny montages created with small lego people arranged often in politically charged scenes that are somehow both adorable and a bit ominous. The dancers may well represent the four elements themselves, though it’s unclear if the piece is designed with anything like that level of concrete representation in mind. Certainly, the dancers interact in ways that suggest loss and longing, and their dynamic is alternately one of support and dynamic interaction but often with an undertone of sadness. This is also a very intimate environment, especially when one of the dancers interacts with you. I was mesmerized by two dancers when someone tapped me on the shoulder to let me know my time was up, and I found myself wanting to stay in this melancholic yet sensual world a little longer.
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