A Tomorrow Collective presentation as part of the Dance Centre’s Pulse program. At the Scotiabank Dance Centre on Friday, March 28. No remaining performances
The best thing about the Tomorrow Collective is that its works are rooted squarely in today. Dance can seem rarefied, but this trio of female upstarts is devoted to capturing the here and now. They make dance cool.
Mara Branscombe, Katy Harris-McLeod, and Jennifer McLeish-Lewis are best known for their Brief Encounters events, in which artists from different disciplines pair up to create short works at the lounge-y ANZA Club. But the latest Pulse program gave audiences a chance to see what these women are really about. Each performed her own solo, and then joined up for a video-cranked new version of choreographer Susan Elliott’s 2006 piece You Are Here. From remixed sampled sounds to projected images of high-rises, the overall vibe was urban and clubby.
McLeish-Lewis’s Leaving Traces, a meditation on memory by the single-monikered choreographer Daelik, is built around loops of repeated movements. Set to the static clicks, muffled bass beats, and a cacophony of sampled sounds by Emma Hendrix and coin gutter, it finds McLeish-Lewis replaying slow gestures, such as walking forward then pausing to look back, and speeding them up into sheer frenzy. The sentimental use of projected old family snapshots is at startling odds with Traces’ machinelike movements and noises.
As She’s Leaving proved that Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg’s warped brand of dance-theatre can be successfully performed by someone other than the choreographer behind bANGER: The Power Hour. In this demented snippet of southern gothic, Katy Harris-McLeod brings to life a belle who is part Helena Bonham Carter’s bride of Frankenstein, part Bette Davis’s Baby Jane, complete with fright wig, dripping black eye makeup, and a ripped-up white gown. She staggers around and spreads her legs to Marc Stewart’s creepily atmospheric soundscape of clinking ice, swamp frogs, toy piano, and gramophone static, drawling about cheating and obsession. Twisted and inspired.
A long dress-coat is Mara Branscombe’s main prop in At a Loss, but she animates it in a way that’s not as gimmicky as that might sound. At times her hands move eerily out of its neck hole, or she stretches it upright like a tall, headless figure; at others, she pulls it over her head like a burqa.
Still, the solos looked like small studies next to the fully realized group work. You Are Here was honed recently at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Now, from the opening moment when Branscombe is hoisted into the air to spin a hanging globe, the ode to travel and time flows hypnotically from beginning to end. One reason is that Elliott has axed a disruptive speaking sequence. Another is that Brian Johnson’s new double-screen video projections—abstracted signals, skyscrapers, and the dancers themselves—echo the ever-looping movement on-stage. They also enhance Jesse Zubot’s awe-inspiring pastiche of sobbing strings, clock chimes, choking noises, and more. The result is a much more powerful emotional effect, by turns uplifting and distressing.
You Are Here is about three people supporting each other (often literally) in the face of constant movement and a concrete jungle. The camaraderie of these three works in their favour—both off- and on-stage.