Grass and gnomes hit Here to Go: The Second Edition

Here to Go: The Second Edition

At the Cultch Historic Theatre on Thursday, November 26. No remaining performances

New dance troupes, and new evenings that feature them, are as rare as $100 bills in these cultural-cash-strapped times. But here they were—groups with strange and striking names like Mutable Subject, Proverbial, the Contingency Plan, and the Story of Force and Motion—all sharing a program, not in some makeshift space, but on the Cultch’s newly restored historical stage. What on earth was going on?

Some decent, if not all consistent, work, as it turned out. In this second installment of Here to Go (the first outing was back in January at the smaller Beaumont Stage), the choreography wasn’t always as unusual as the troupe names. The dancing gnomes were, though.

Cavorting to a soundtrack that spanned Hot Butter and Lionel Richie, two of them appeared in full Travelocity regalia, complete with white beards, stuffed bellies, and green stockings, for the Contingency Plan’s offering. Inspired by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet’s 1976 book Gnomes, the work drew its title directly from the book: High-level performance in matters involving strength, stamina and sexual drive. The pair competed for the affections of a mechanical doll. The piece would have come perilously close to a slapstick skit had it not been for Vanessa Goodman’s eerily convincing, and classically skilled, toy ballerina and the physical character work of the two elves (Leigha Wald and Jane Osborne), one macho, the other sensitive. Can belly-bucking truly qualify as dance? Maybe not, but it was fun to watch. Contingency is making a name for comedy, but the emerging troupe’s technical chops are no joke.

Mutable Subject’s One + The Other was the standout as far as sheer choreography went. Wearing sad stares and harem pants that opened like accordions whenever they lunged and squatted, Justine Chambers and Deanna Peters performed a mesmerizing clockwork rhythm of repetition, stops, and starts. Slow and hypnotic at the beginning, the movement looked like strange rituals, angular and sculptural; but when it sped up toward the end, it became more alienating and mechanical. The work seemed to dig at the troubled selves we hide behind faí§ades, and set to 310’s looping ticks and chimes, it wove a spell.

Elsewhere on the program, Justin Reist and Olivia Shaffer of Proverbial put a wildly physical and sometimes hip-hop-tinged spin on touch improv in Colour by Number, but the experiment lacked flow, and a few of the moves were just awkward. The Story of Force and Motion’s On the Other Side found each of the five performers with his or her own small square of sod, which they’d dance on and move around the floor. There were some clever moments, including patterning that played on the off-kilter rhythms and feedback of music by the likes of ambient postrockers Joy Wants Eternity. At one point the dancers rolled chaotically on the floor, heads lolling on the grass as if they were lying in the park. But when they stood on the squares, miming acts like tennis and kite-flying, the “grass is greener” metaphors became too obvious.

Still, this chance to scope out the “other side” of the dance community—to explore work outside that of the usual suspects—offered up enough new ideas to leave viewers looking forward to a third installment.