Reviews from Dancing on the Edge Performances (concluded July 11)

Throughout the various performances I saw over several days, one constant stood out. The musical scores were always intriguing, varied, and unexpected. These types of performances are ephemeral, and it’s hard to capture in words why they gave these impressions. But if you have the chance, attend Dancing on the Edge (or other contemporary dance performances) for the sound as much as for the dance.

I have focused on a few pieces that left a strong impression, but all of the pieces were worth seeing and hearing.

Edge Up, Sunday, July 5

NineEight

I have seen several of Hong Kong Exile’s performances. These works are typically multi-disciplinary, and NineEight is no exception. The company members mostly all have strong personal connections to Hong Kong. Intrinsic to such connections, is an undercurrent of fear and menace not just from mainland China, but also that Cantonese culture in general, including in Vancouver, is being lost. Their recent “Centre A” art gallery presentation, transgression/cantosphere, in Vancouver’s Chinatown focused on the Cantonese culture that is slipping away on a daily basis.

So my political and cultural expectations were set from my personal knowledge, which may influence my interpretation (as it always does). Not to mention I visited Hong Kong last year and saw the brave participants of the Umbrella Revolution up close. I struggle to describe the work, but I was left with impressions of media and manipulation, of tradition and modernity, of being pulled in numerous directions. I felt engaged with this piece, both in terms of movement and sound, throughout.

I was happy to read that this production of NineEight is just the beginning for this work. It will be staged in an open rehearsal at Gateway Theatre on September 11-12, 2015. So I recommend you attend that, even if you caught it this time around.

this hallow space has a corridor

For this piece, which was intriguing but difficult to recount, I was particularly struck by the initial sounds, which reminded me of a Van de Graaf generator in a rainstorm.

Edge 2, Tuesday, July 7

TRACING MALONG

Analyzing a piece when you aren’t sure of its meaning is risky for the critic. But given how the dancers in this festival repeatedly pushed the boundaries, I will try to be slightly brave. Here’s what I saw and felt in this piece.

The actor engages with a large piece of patterned fabric indigenous to the Philippines. He is first entangled and almost strangled by it. He finally succeeds in removing it. He tries leaving it completely alone. He tries wrapping the rectangle up small and using it in different ways (for example, as a hat). Ultimately, he dons the fabric again, but this time in a dress form. He suggestively sashays in a stereotypically feminine way. Perhaps the dancer, Alvin Erasga Tolentino, can best incorporate his indigenous culture into his life when he recognizes the feminine aspects of himself.

Regardless of the accuracy of this interpretation, this was one of the most engaging solo pieces I saw at Dancing on the Edge.

Edge 3, Tuesday, July 7

Oxygen

What I took from this piece was a riff on Creation stories, particularly feeling the influence of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, with a touch of Frankenstein. I do not see any of that in the official description, but that is what I got from it. The lighting (as was typical for DOTE) was excellent in focusing our attention. The dancer, Billy Marchenski, was nearly nude, giving the performance a primeval feel. I strongly felt the creativity and energy of the dancer.

Final note

Every time I attend a contemporary dance performance, I tell myself I have to learn more. Time is always precious, but I wonder if a free course like this might be useful to those of us who seek to improve our knowledge:

Creating Site-Specific Dance and Performance Works (from Coursera)

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