Artists conjure hauntingly beautiful nocturnal worlds in a full night of dance

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      Edge Six
      A Dancing on the Edge presentation. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Thursday, July 12. Continues on July 14

      Transverse Orientation
      At 395 Alexander Street. Continues until July 14

      Beguiling dance work filled the night with mystery on Thursday. Plan things right and you can duplicate a trip through this strange and beautiful array on Saturday.

      The journey started at the Dancing on the Edge festival’s Firehall Arts Centre, where the mixed Edge Six program brought together three intriguing duets.

      Filipino-Canadian contemporary dancer Alvin Erasga Tolentino opened, joining fiery forces with flamenco artist Kasandra “La China”. This glimpse of their work in progress Passages and Rhythms reveals an unexpected cultural stew—heightened by the presence of live, on-stage percussionist Jonathan Bernard, whose gongs, bells, and tablalike drums brought all the spices of the Far East to the piece. The dancers mixed flamenco’s pummelling feet with fans—fluttering devices that bridge the worlds of Spain and Asia.

      What followed was a striking new duet from choreographer-performer Meredith Kalaman. Called for as long as I can remember, it played with identically clothed dancer Ellie Bishop as her doppelgänger—Bishop representing the younger self Kalaman yearns to speak to.

      The piece had three big strengths. The choreography, with its fragmented, looping back-and-forths through time and space, was beautifully odd and innovative. Composers Stefan Smulovitz, Adam Taylor, and Daniel Pemberton’s rich, haunting score, combined with Kyla Gardiner’s dim, moody lighting, bathed everything in a dark cinematic tone. And the ideas—would you really try to change your younger self, or would it be best to leave her to learn from her follies?—were philosophically compelling.

      The final work, Alexandra Elliott Dance’s Here and Now, conjured its own, haunting aura. Dressed in matching black uniforms and slicked-back hair, the Winnipeg dance artist and Hillary Anne Crist appeared stuck in a kind of institutional purgatory, doomed to repeat their mechanistic motions. The props were a simple table and a metal can that could roll across the floor. Exaggerated with long shadows, the work took on a cool German-expressionistic vibe, suddenly brightened by the ending’s glittery revelation.

      As a trio, these are all strong, playfully clever works, and well worth catching.

      The slightly eerie vibe of the Edge program helped prepare us for the full-on nocturnal creepiness at the later midnight showing of Rachel Meyer’s Transverse Orientation.

      Talk about atmosphere. Held in a historic Railtown warehouse, the Ballet BC alumna’s work took its inspiration from moths in all their fascinating nighttime mystery. Amid its dimly lit, wood-beamed space, audience members streamed into stadium seating on one end.
      In front of them, dancers Stéphanie Cyr, Ria Girard, and Maya Tenzer seemed to enact the creatures’ awkward, ethereal life cycle. Emerging as hungry caterpillars, even devouring a surreal pile of apples on-stage, they donned gauzy gowns to move into their cocoon stage and finally took flight. Sometimes their limbs would bend in broken, insectlike ways; at others, Girard might curve backward in an unearthly C. These are some of the city’s best young dancers—committed, expressive, and honed for this piece’s gruelling physical demands.

      But the beauty of this work was that there were many other things to look at. Along a dimly lit track in the back corner, expressive Ballet BC alumnus Christophe von Riedemann danced his own strange piece, ripping off the pages of a calendar to mark the minutes, lost in his own existential space.

      Transverse Orientation
      James O'Mara


      Violinist Janna Sailor appeared in an upper loft, then came down to join the trio of “moths”, making her instrument buzz and squeak.
      And then there was the enigmatic Meyer herself, who appeared as an observer, linking the piece about transformation and metamorphosis to her own personal journey, and seeming to learn how to find her own freedom through their cycle.

      Huge props go to lighting designer James Proudfoot, whose menagerie of industrial spotlights and flickering sepia bulbs shape the space, throwing shadows and making you feel, alternately, like you’re watching by moonlight or entering an F.W. Murnau film set.

      Sarah Armstrong’s costumes add to the gorgeous look of the piece, playing on the gauze of wings and cocoons, but looking cutting-edge too.

      In short, Transverse Orientation is the kind of after-hours, underground-feeling work you never get to see in Vancouver. Berlin or Montreal? Maybe—if you’re lucky. So grab your favourite caffeine source and stay up to the witching hour to see it during its short run—before it flies off in search of the light.