Japan has always fascinated me. Whereas the unknown can often be synonymous with scary or intimidating, the Japanese culture evokes instead a delightful mystery. On one extreme, we recognize the Japanese in bright and daring fashion. On the other, we know them for being extraordinarily humble and quietly respectful. Their rich culture has evolved so differently from what the western world calls normal, and it has completely captured our imagination. Agora Tangente, the short name for the two-company neighbour-collaborators, indulges our fascination this month with a two-week focus on Japan, Dansu. Comprising three dance shows and a movie series, it’s a close-encounter with the wonderfully foreign scene of current Japanese performance.
Who is more authentic than Jose Navas? After hearing the name from fellow dancers auditioning for his Compagnie Flak, back when I was in ballet school, I only first saw Navas in a photograph, one taken by my Concordia classmate Valerie Simmons. In the simple, static curves of his naked body, he spoke a message so clear that it was beyond words. My next encounter with him, via the film ORA, on which he collaborated with director Philippe Baylaucq, still gives me goosebumps and is among the only times I have seen dance portrayed so truly on film. For his 50th birthday, Navas performed his solo Rites at Danse Danse, pushing his body and his creativity while unabashedly baring his whole self to his audience in his adopted city of Montreal. At Agora de la danse this week, he presents ON, an hommage to his longtime collaborators Marc Parent, light designer, and Alexander MacSween, composer. Evidently, I hopped on the opportunity to witness Navas’ presence once again.
The first thing you need to know about a Marie Chouinard show is that it’s sensational. Dance may be best known as an art of the body, and these shows work with the whole body, you bet, but a Compagnie Marie Chouinard show is an integral experience for your eyes and ears… and curious mind. To open it’s 20th season, the Danse Danse series have programmed a weeklong Chouinard-fest. First, Le Cri du Monde and Soft Virtuosity, Still Humid, On the Edge run for two nights and add themselves to the list of a dozen works Danse Danse have now collected by Chouinard since 1998. Then, an hommage to Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights makes its Montreal premiere with a three-night run.
Ballet BC captured Montreal in Danse Danse’s 2014-2015 season with an all-male choreographed triple bill. Now they are back with another triple, lead this time by three amazing women. Emily Molnar, artistic director of Ballet BC and largely responsible for catapulting the company to its international status, presents 16 + A Room. Fellow Canadian Crystal Pite follows up with Solo Echo, a piece she originally created for Nederlands Dans Theater, and satisfying my bias as a superfan of NDT. Finally Israel’s Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Bill closes the night. With all these winning elements together in one night, there was no excuse not to see this show.
Sometimes it’s all in our perception. I went into Dream Away not expecting much – I know that Stephan Toss’ work isn’t always my cup of tea, but that Les Grands Ballets’ dancers always find a way to move me – whereas my date for the night had very high hopes. In the end, I loved everything she couldn’t stand, and vice versa, and yet we are young women with similar taste! Sometimes you realize mid-dream that you are in fact dreaming, and it wipes away the magic of what you had been experiencing. Sometimes you even wake up, losing that dream world completely. In Dream Away, Stephan Toss captured both these sides of the dream, and where I was fully swept away, my companion was wide awake. Which side will you see?
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.
A wonderful thing about Quebec artists is that most people can’t guess where they’re from. Our style is a mishmash of European and American influences, with an international flavour that combines hints from around the world. There is often something otherworldly about our creations, and no one embodies this more than the living deity herself, Marie Chouinard. Accompanied by the Orchestre symphonique des jeunes de Montréal, Compagnie Marie Chouinard returned to the Theatre Maisonneuve in Montreal last week as part of the Danse Danse festival, performing Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Le sacre du printemps.