Dances for a Small Stage with perogies: what's not to like?
A Movent presentation. At the Ukrainian Hall on Friday, September 13. Continues Saturday September 14
Admittedly it's an odd mix, but a little weirdness has always worked in favour of Dances for a Small Stage. The series has just relocated to the homey gym beneath the Ukrainian Hall on 10th at Main, serving up perogies and sausage along with drinks. The audience spreads out amid large round tables that dance artist-thrifter Lena Fitzner has decorated with vintage toys and games; at mine, we were passing around an old ViewMaster that showed 3-D images of Hawaiian luaus. The overall experience is kind of like watching edgy contemporary dance in your Ukrainian grandparent's retro rec room, and you'd have to be pretty uptight not to like the unpretentious fun of it all.
As far as programming, it's a strong group of snippets at this Dances for a Small Stage--a mix of veterans and newbies serving up some fairly avant garde stuff on the small raised stage. Theatre artist James Fagan Tait is our MC, offering dance-oriented quotes from the likes of Nijinsky and Goethe between pieces.
The overall feel of the pieces is of dark creepiness, and the use of sampled speech is rampant. Eerie highlights include relative newcomer Julianne Chapple's sea/unseen, set to the voices of British people who seem to be remembering dreams about drowning. She moves, almost broken-limbed, reaching, sometimes looking like the long-haired wraith from The Ring; later she removes her clothes to drench them in a crystal bowl full of water, and wets her mane so it splatters droplets as she flails. Chilling.
"The last part of the beginning, starting at the End", by Karissa Barry, who also helped cocurate the evening, is equally haunting. It finds the always intense Barry dancing with Jessica Wilkie, dressed in black goggles and hoods. They enact a strange, new language here, adjusting the goggles like binoculars, lunging and searching, part aliens, part superspies, to electronic sounds and words.
Quebec visitor Jean-Francois Duke leaves you wanting more from his Eva... solo for Jean, a piece that stands out because its vocabulary is so different from what you normally see in Vancouver. The rising young artist works heavily from gesture, using a chair at centre stage, sometimes driving an invisible car, sometimes rolling off it acrobatically, in an idiosyncratic vignette that feels personal and nostalgic.
James Gnam's _post benefits from its remounted excerpts here. The plastic orchid factory choreographer's exploration of the rigidity of classical ballet had some brilliant, surreal imagery. The standout scene here is Lara Barclay appearing like a giant, fluffy caterpillar, wrapped in a massive swath of tutu tulle, then slowly, languorously emerging and freeing herself from the gauze.
Other vignettes aren't as fully realized but are entertaining as their own experiments. Daelik messes around with giant pieces of plastic foil, forming them into a sculptural landscape of peaks and valleys around him, then covering himself in the reflective material himself. And Science Friction's Farley Johansson gets athletic in an exploration of floor work that looks like a contemporary-dance take on breaking spins and handstands.
Kirsten Wicklund and Hayden Fong manage to generate some real heat in their short duet Ancient Lace. As for Dayna Szyndrowki and Elisa Thorn's unexpected tap-dance-harp improv, it's the sort of strangely enticing oddity you could only ever find at Dances for a Small Stage.
Harps, tap, tulle, goggles, perogies, and ViewMasters: don't ask exactly why it all works, but somehow it all does, and if you're looking to fill your belly and feast your eyes tonight, it's definitely worth heading over to the Main 'hood's newest addition.