First installment of Dancing on the Edge festival truly a moving event

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      A Dancing on the Edge production. At the Firehall Theatre on Saturday, July 6. No remaining performances

      Dance doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything to be compelling, but a hint of narrative lends accessibility to even the most abstract choreography—and Jung-Ah Chung benefited from that in this mixed program from the Dancing on the Edge festival.

      In the first installment of the ongoing EDGE series, the Victoria-based dancer had the daunting task of opening for two of Vancouver’s most capable performers: Josh Martin and Edmond Kilpatrick. Yet her performance of choreographer Constance Cooke’s Spill 4 was arguably the evening’s highlight, connected as it was to some kind of deep human experience. Exactly what was being communicated, I can’t tell you—I read it as the embodiment of heartbreak, while Cooke’s program notes say it’s about “tension, risk, fragility and transformation”—but it was moving nonetheless.

      Glass and light featured heavily: Chung rose in darkness from a bower of discarded vanity bulbs, illuminating herself with a single functioning lamp. Further unlit bulbs, ranging in size from tiny to street-lamp–size, hung from two on-stage racks; at one point, she flung her arms through them so wildly that shattering should have resulted, although it didn’t. There was also a slow meditation on the frozen heart, with Chung caressing lumps of ice before pouring a basin of frigid water across the stage. And then she returned to the vanity bulbs, lay down among them with an alarming tinkle, and swept them around her body with flailing limbs.

      No doubt this was all carefully calculated, but the illusion of danger was strong.

      In contrast, Martin and Kilpatrick’s performances, though more virtuosic, came across as technical exercises rather than theatrical experiences.

      The former’s unpromisingly titled Leftovers was quite astonishing at first, with Martin shifting from a standing pose to the floor in a series of infinitely precise movements synced to an abrasive noise-rock score. The dancer-choreographer’s control is awesome; clichéd though that might sound, there’s no other word for it. Ultimately, though, this passage was simply a man lying down in an extremely stylized manner. Like the rest of the piece, it was fascinating to watch but packed little emotional heft.

      Kilpatrick had more to work with in Still Breath Standing, which Karen Jamieson choreographed for him. It’s a quietly joyous celebration of the former Ballet B.C. star’s maturing body and of his poise as well. Kilpatrick made everything look easy—but perhaps too easy, given the expectation of risk that Cooke and Chung established right off the top.