Good things come in threes on mixed bill

3 for All

Part of the CanDance Touring Exchange. A Firehall Arts Centre, CanDance Network, Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival, and Live Art Dance Productions copresentation. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Thursday, April 27. No remaining performances

It's about time. Or, more specifically, about our obsession with it. By cataloguing everything from the joyful to the tragic, 5 Breaths, choreographed by Montreal's Roger Sinha and performed by Halifax's Mocean Dance, captures the absurdity of measuring each and every moment.

In this piece there are no clocks; instead the dancers race against spinning tops, in one instance actually attempting to perform a solo before one of the toys stops moving. The tops are balanced on the stage some times and on the dancers at others. Carolle Crooks, Sarah Di Quinzio, Sara Harrigan and Alicia Orr MacDonald take turns reeling off how long, down to the second, it takes to perform a solo or to devastate Pakistan with an earthquake. They break into these monologues intermittently, backed by the quick-paced, accordion-flavoured music of Finnish artist Kimmo Pohjonen.

The four performers are exceptionally skilled. Their sharp, angular movements are performed with such genuine energy, they're exhausting to watch.

5 Breaths is a piece with many, many messages: when you're dealing with something as all-encompassing as the concept of time, there are an infinite number of subjects you can address.

The diversity of subjects in 5 Breaths is matched by the extensive movement vocabulary in Susan Elliott's solo, Falls the Shadow. According to the program, Elliott set out to “explore a dichotomy of motion” . She certainly succeeds.

When you're using dance to experiment with two extremes like inertia and hyperactivity, you have virtually the entire choreographic universe to explore. Elliott does so in her work, which is truly fresh and fascinating. Her facial expressions are that of someone who is deeply at peace as she moves between lying still while watching a small portable TV to propping herself up on her hands and feet, gyrating violently.

One moment she is graceful, limbs extended as if she were performing ballet. In the next, she is moving spastically, all the while negotiating the space between a bare light bulb and telephone dangling from the ceiling. (Because Falls the Shadow explores action and reaction, one would assume the two props represent these concepts, though you could rationalize each as either, and it is not clear from the piece which is which.) It is amazing that Elliott has forged such a cohesive piece out of disparate movements.

Far more even-keeled is The Music Room. Choreographed by Toronto's Denise Duric, the work is performed by Danielle Baskerville and Rebecca Mendoza, who move a bit like mechanized ballerina dolls. As they face each other, arms raised, they tuck their heads and limbs nicely into each other while accompanied by a piano piece by the French composer Erik Satie. There is a distinctly childlike vulnerability to them. Eerily vacant, the dancers seem disconnected from their performance as they lie on the stage, swishing their feet side to side or hoisting their skirts like cancan dancers. While pleasant and inoffensive, Room is not as scintillating as the other two pieces. Still, it is by no means a waste of time.