Where does one start when one has to write about dance performances? If this was a 3 dimensional blog post I would throw up my arms, go on my tiptoes, wiggle my body, exclaim aloud with an impressed gasp, throw myself on the floor with glee, sit and stare at you with a piece of hay dangling from my mouth (for at least 5 minutes to make you wonder), laugh, and hug myself in sheer happiness while staring at you deeply, hoping that you understand how great what I just witnessed was.
Ahh… BUT, I can’t do that. I can tell you, however, how much fun I had watching two dance performances choreographed by Cherice Barton, and Donald Sales at the Chutzpah Festival on Monday evening at the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre. The first piece, Ch.3: Collaboration was created by Azure Barton, and performed by Cherice Barton and Donald Sales. The second piece, “Leaving Grit”, was choreographed by Barton and Sales, and performed by Lara Barclay, Cori Caulfield, Jeffrey Mortensen, Leon Feizo-Gas, Davon Rainey, Kevin Tookey, and Jennifer Welsman.
When I was a little girl I wanted to dance. My parents tried to encourage me, and I ended up in ballet at the Banff School of Fine Arts (now the Banff Centre). The classes didn’t last long for me as I was so little and I really hated doing sit ups, and my teacher was too overzealous for me. I dropped out. I ended up in figure skating and enjoyed that, but I distinctly remember being a bit of a clown there, too. Sigh…
But, to me, dance always seemed to remain the best place for honest expression.
Watching the first piece of the performance was, for me, like watching an abstract painting in movement. At first I wanted to understand intellectually what was unfolding before me, and then I surrendered to the simple pleasure of their interesting movements and the two dancers’ relationship. Bits and pieces of images came forth, but I didn’t need a story.
Then the second piece saddled me up and rustled me along an unexpected trail of stories in a cowboy hat wearing, barmaid flirting Western setting. What a fun ride! Along the way, though, tensions rose, competition provoked fellow players, and sad and dissatisfied undertones happened in the quiet intimate moments. In fact… I cried.
Then there was that moment, that moment inspired by the film “Once Upon A Time In The West”! I wanted to jump out of my seat and say “I understand!”. Four cowboys, four DANCERS, held the space along with the atmospheric sound track (a fly buzzing, a squeaking weather vane), for a long period, staring out at us. They were waiting. Waiting. And waiting. If you know the film, you will recognize the opening sequence in which almost no words are spoken for 12 whole minutes.
No words spoken. This is the brilliance of movement. And, commitment to the story. These dancers sure knew how to express the story via their bodies. As an actor, and a bouffon/buffoonery instructor, I felt inspired to continue to encourage actors (and myself) to story tell through movement. There is no mediocrity, only clear, clear objectives.
I admire the choreographers’ choices that turned a stage, a few props and sets into an environment that made us as the audience suspend our representational view point. It was like being a kid again.
Thank you for the ride…. No wonder I dreamt about horses that night! And thank you to The Chutzpah Festival for keeping the creative juices flowing.