Crossing the country to Montreal, Vancouver’s own Company 605 was at the Agora de la danse last week presenting brand new work. Premiering at the Vancouver International Dance Festival in March, they performed their latest piece, Vital Few, across western Canada before embarking on the eastern phase of this country-wide tour. Company 605, previously Collective 605, is know for blending urban and contemporary dance to create athletic work that uses the body language of the millennial generation. They make no exception in Vital Few, inspiring themselves from break dancing that blends seamlessly with the dancers’ more formal dance training.
In Vital Few, the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Six dancers create a single moving body both literally, dancing as a mass with limbs interwoven, and through invisible connections that push and pull each individual in sway with the others. Like building blocks they pile together creating a series of mecha-humans, redundant though that may sound: moving, humanoid bodies made up of people and interacting with a dancer who’s been singled out. But between, before and after these creations come to life, we’re reminded of the individuality of each pillar person that makes them up.
The style Company 605 uses in Vital Few is somewhere at the junction of contact improvisation and street style hip hop. Though similar in composition to what some Quebec troupes have shown us, think RUBBERBANDance and Tentacle Tribe, Company 605 stands out as more melodic and integrated. The lines that separate each of the influencing styles aren’t blurred, they’re non-existent. The dancers’ fluidity with each other shows that this is not just a choreographic preference, but a working philosophy. That being said, the performance was limited by group-wide syndrome. Whether due to modesty or over-intellectualization, the dancers cut their movements short, failing to extend to the tips of their arms and legs, instead keeping the movement trapped in their core. There was a lot of room to grow and become more daringly expressive.
Beyond the choreography, the lighting and set design were totally captivating. Strips of aluminium made a graphic pattern on the stage floor, mimicking the patterns in the choreography and the concept of unique pieces making a greater whole. Lights would play off the metallic material, at times reflecting opaque blues and illuminating the dancers, at other times reflecting shiny ripples onto the white backdrop. Reflections also created massive shadows of the mecha-humans, removing the gaps between the individual bodies and showing the creature as a whole. Every element was smartly multipurpose.
Company 605’s focus on their unique dance style is a strength that continues to bring them recognition. In Vital Few though, it felt at times like a crutch, like an abstract concept that had been retrofitted with a story about community. The work was undecided between a central concept of human group dynamics or the physical exploration of interdependent movement. With a lot of great elements to it though, I can imagine Vital Few maturing into a really interesting piece, becoming more refined through experience. Such is the beauty of dance that, unlike a static book or movie, it changes with every reading, every performance, ever evolving through performer and audience feedback. It’s living art.