An mmHoP production. At the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts on Saturday, March 31. No remaining performances
In 2004's iDUB, choreographer Martha Carter transformed the theatre into a nightclub to fabulous effect. For her latest, Ri'zilyent: An Urban Ballet, the local artist turned the space into a therapy session, with far less successful results.
As its title makes clear, the quintet is centred on the notion of resilience. But instead of exploring the adaptability of human beings through evocative movement, Carter relies heavily on spoken word. Midway through the show, the performers came together in a circle and took turns at a mike. One by one, the five shared a memory or a story that they'd sum up in a single word–memory, for instance, or freedom. Then they challenged another performer to illustrate that term through dance. Through awkward segues, the artists covered a wide range of topics: after watching Jojo Zolina deliver his physical interpretation of isolation, Jacob Cino spoke on everything from different types of isolation (mental and physical) to double meanings to misunderstandings to people who are misunderstood–namely those who live in the Downtown Eastside–to crack scabs. And so it was the next person's turn to "dance" crack scabs. From there, Zolina, Cino, Jennifer McLeish-Lewis, Amy Joy Allan, and Lina Fitzner performed such terms as growing pains and medicated. More contrived than creative, the setup came across as a reenactment of a dance-therapy workshop.
The performers ended on resilience, of course, but their verbal description of the noun wasn't weighty enough to sustain the work's theme. Similarly, there was no narrative or choreographic arc throughout the piece to effectively convey the ability to bounce back from adversity.
Instead, Carter offered a mishmash of ideas and images. At the outset, for example, the dancers drew from Animal Planet as they grunted, apelike, and puffed out their chests; later their gestures evoked everything from speaker-dancing to shadow boxing. And in that painful talking segment, the performers touched on everything from low self-esteem to itchiness.
Jamie griffiths's visuals did little to tie the disparate concepts together. Sometimes they baffled: video images of paraplegic graffiti artist Take5 painting the stage's backdrop included a scene in which he buried his head in his lap. Was he crying, or just exhausted?
Moving to Franí§ois Houle's eclectic score, which included driving percussion, rhythmic house music, and clicking castanets, the performers were frequently out of sync. Cino did a bang-up job with his Bob Dylan impression, however, and Zolina stood out for his smooth steps. The latter can isolate every last muscle in his lean body and is captivating to watch.
It's too bad the dancers didn't have stronger material to work with.