Kinesis Dance somatheatro's ODDessay 114 is a surreal and sprawling journey
A Kinesis Dance somatheatro production. At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on Thursday, September 6. Continues until September 9
As the title promises, this show certainly is “ODD”: it’s a sprawling hallucination of squeaky toys, gas masks, scaffolding, recitations from Homer’s Odyssey, LED headlamps, toy boats, and impromptu graffiti-making on the walls—this, while the audience moves awkwardly amid it.
ODDessay 114 begins as a promisingly surreal start to the dance season. As the crowd waits outside the giant industrial doors of the exhibition hall at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, a projection of the dancers makes it look like they are appearing and disappearing into the portal. Then the gates open to allow us to walk down a corridor of “portholes”: inside the circular windows, we watch performers writhe, stand at attention, press up against the glass, and even play the violin in impossibly cramped boxes.
The crowded hallway opens up into the cavernous performance hall, where dancers lie on the floor amid a sea of folded-paper boats and toy warships, while the viewers take their seat on the benches and floor space around the centre of the room. Meanwhile, composer-performer Stefan Smulovitz conjures a haunting electro soundscape. Cool.
What follows, though, is a strange, extended series of physical imagery and extreme experimentations, mostly centred around Craig Alfredson’s movable, innovative sculptural sets. He has built a landscape of metal scaffolding, corrugated plastic, and giant shipping crates, including a huge pull-cart that the 14 dancers leap across, spin around, and crowd onto. (James Proudfoot's lighting matches the industrial feel, with flickering fluorescent tubes and sepia bulbs descending from the ceiling.)
Each artist fully commits to the “odd” tasks; as usual in veteran choreographer Paras Terezakis’s work, the male performers are uniformly strong, and female talents Thoenn Glover and Jacqueline Lopez are standouts.
The problem is that their individual “essays” are so cryptic and far-flung. The group runs frantically around yelling about “What is a human?” Two male dancers waltz around with cups of what looks like tea balanced on their heads. People yell out in languages like Japanese and Spanish. Smulovitz plays his violin on the cart while the dancers turn it around, then they pull him down and shove him underneath it. At the end, audience members are directed to walk through a scaffolding where dancers hang wearing gas masks.
Make no mistake: there is some extreme, pummelling choreography underneath the mad bombardment of sights and sounds. Glover has a haunting solo on the cart, reaching up like she’s escaping on an invisible rope, then collapsing. And the corps tangles and piles in sculptural ways.
The work is inspired by the claustrophobia and emotional toll of Terezaki’s army service. But he doesn’t harness or condense his ideas as successfully here as he did in the taut Box4. The canvas is too large here, and unfortunately, as things extend past the hour mark while the lights go down and the headlamps and gas masks come on, it all becomes too much. It’s exhausting and often impenetrable.
Even if it ultimately doesn’t work, though, you simply have to give props to a choreographer this far into his career who’s willing to take this many out-there risks—and for the sizable team of artists willing to take the bizarre odyssey along with him.