Company Drift's Sound Machine shows off a playful sense of humour
Company Drift is at least nominally a dance troupe, but its shows might not look—or sound—like any dance you’ve ever seen.
“I was always interested in dancers who can do more than just lift their legs,” explains choreographer and artistic director Peter Schelling, on the line from frigid Calgary, where the Zurich-based troupe is performing in that city’s annual High Performance Rodeo. “So after a while I surrounded myself with the kinds of people I was interested in. They’re very, very multitalented: they can draw well, they can sing, they can make music, and they have other things they do very well. And then I decided that I would like to work with their abilities that are not merely dancing.”
So it is that in Sound Machine—which Company Drift brings to the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival next week—dancers Béatrice Jaccard, Massimo Bertinelli, and Franí§ois Gendre will also sing, act, and make music, all based on the notion that they’re scientists who have invented the audio equivalent of an electron microscope.
“We had the idea from a short story of Roald Dahl’s where a man invents a machine where he can hear all the inaudible things around him—what the trees sound like, et cetera,” Schelling explains. “But eventually he goes nuts because he can hear the trees crying when they are chopped down.”
Company Drift’s interpretation is less tragic, however—in keeping with Schelling’s playful sense of humour and the antic talents of his cast.
“We just pretend that we’re finding out what a tomato sounds like,” says the choreographer, laughing. “So these wacky scientists are experimenting, extracting sounds from inaudible things. And then they get carried away by these sounds, so they make music and they dance to it—until they realize again that they are actually serious people, so they go back to research. That’s more or less what gives the whole piece its rhythm: going in and out of scientific research into the joy of life, and then back.”
Schelling admits that one could view Sound Machine as an extended riff on the equally wacky world of gene-splicing, but downplays this interpretation.
“We are not going after heavy issues; we don’t want to be recognized as deep-digging, relevant artists,” he cautions. “It’s more like we’re expressing our way of life, trying to create imaginative works that appeal to ourselves. We’re very serious about what we’re doing—but it shouldn’t be taken seriously by the audience!”