A Joe Ink production. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Thursday, February 24. Continues until Saturday, February 26
Dusk hovers between day and night, and Joe Ink’s new work inhabits a haunting limbo, too.
Bathed in purply half-light and moving to Jesse Zubot’s eerie electro-strings, its dancers seem to waver between wakefulness and sleep. Or more disturbingly, is it life and death? Either way, veteran Vancouver choreographer Joe Laughlin is digging deep here, going darker than we’ve seen him venture before. The effect is dreamlike and mesmerizing.
Some of the movement is gorgeously groggy. Usually dance is all about extension and tension, but there’s an art in finding this kind of looseness and liquid flow. A dancer falls limp in the middle of an embrace, only to have her partner slip out from beneath her arms and get replaced by another. Or the entire five-member group hoists one sleepy body and turns it in the air. In one spellbinding duet, Kevin Tookey supports a floppy Jeannie Vandekerkhove, propping her up and moving her limbs like a rag doll. The performers seem to fight to move, but something overcomes them. Are they giving in to sleep or succumbing to something else?
Other moments are reminiscent of the purgatorial nightmares in the movie Jacob’s Ladder, with heads whipsawing and limbs contorting inhumanly. In one arresting solo, standout Tara Dyberg shudders and convulses like she’s being electrocuted from within.
There is none of the experimentation with props we’ve seen in recent Laughlin works like TIMBER/timbre and [in]habit; this is pure exploration of movement, and it’s a unique mix of the primal and the poetic. Laughlin has found a crack team of dancers to commit to the piece and its complex demands, as well as its oddly beautiful emotional space. About the only complaint is that the work fizzles a bit by the end, though the dancers have definitely travelled an arc through which they’ve become more unified and “awake”.
Laughlin has said dusk grew mostly out of his surviving a heart attack two years ago, and although it would be dangerous to get too literal reading near-death experience into this piece, one thing is clear: Laughlin awakened to something within himself, and that indefinable something resonates deeply in this show.