Science Friction gets Dancing on the Edge going with a bang

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      A Dancing on the Edge festival presentation. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Sunday, July 11. No remaining performances

      Dancing on the Edge has only just started, but it’ll be hard to find a bigger audience pleaser than Science Friction’s a pocket full of questions.

      A highlight of this mixed program, the electronica-pumped piece found dancer-choreographers Shannon Moreno and Farley Johansson flicking playing cards around the stage. Anyone who saw Dances for a Small Stage in June caught the piece excerpted for Ballet B.C. dancers Alexis Fletcher and Gilbert Small. It left everyone wanting more—and that’s exactly what the duo, who founded their company in Vancouver but are now working in Germany, offered here.

      The opening segment, set to the languorous, electro-rock sounds of Circlesquare, found Johansson and Moreno playfully connecting through cards, pulling a seemingly endless stream of them out of the backs of their shirts and whirling them around the floor. Things started to get really fun when Johansson built a house of cards on a tiny table at the front of the stage, while Moreno, doll-like, manipulated giant versions of those cards at the back. When she accidentally knocked over his construction, it gave way to a fierce duet fuelled by the pair’s obvious chemistry. He angrily, yet somehow affectionately, pushed and pulled her around the stage as she tried to escape. He ended up pulling her dress off, she ripped his shirt off, and the climax featured them wrestling on the floor, slapping cards all over each other’s sweat-sticky bodies. Hot stuff.

      The other two works on the program also drew from clubby, electronica-styled music—but they could not have been more different.

      Talented local choreographer Justine Chambers created a mesmerizing duet for the Contingency Plan, set to the trance-y, chime-laden sounds of Oval. Called Caesura, it was about the way we take pauses in our daily lives, and found dancers Vanessa Goodman and Jane Osborne—normally known for more comedic work—finding a dreamy space between waking and sleeping. Their arms swung like pendulums. They looked from side to side as if they’d just been roused. And their bodies collapsed onto the floor.

      It was a small but entrancing study that highlighted Chambers’s ability to find a signature vocabulary that’s somehow loose but fractured, smooth but punctuated with stops and starts.

      Toronto’s the Chimera Project seemed brash and bombastic by comparison. Choreographer Malgorzata Nowacka pushed her performers to brutal extremes in this excerpt from BLOOD: the four athletic yet virtuosic dancers leaped and rolled through the spotlight, kicked their legs straight up like they were trying to hit the ceiling, and stabbed fingers at each other like they were switchblades. There were some arrestingly violent images: in one duet, a dancer repeatedly clamped her hands over her partner’s mouth and nose till he gasped. But urban anger was writ a bit too broadly in this gruelling, hard-edged, adrenaline-cranked marathon, set to pounding electronica.

      In all, there were a lot of moods, a lot of action, and fortunately a lot of edge packed into this hour-plus program.