Dancing on the Edge's EDGE One program boasts fluid moves and a startling image

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      At the Firehall Arts Centre on Thursday, July 7, as part of Dancing on the Edge. No remaining performances

      Two out of three aren’t bad.

      Actually, two out of three are superb, although the third is only intermittently interesting. We’ll take those odds.

      The 2016 edition of the annual Dancing on the Edge festival (which runs to July 16) got off to a wonderfully warm start with Here on the Ground, choreographed by Body Narratives Collective and Sarah Chase. It’s a quietly sophisticated meditation on time masquerading as a sweet look at the friendship shared by dancers Julia Carr and Meghan Goodman, the collective’s founders, and it works beautifully on both levels.

      At its simplest, it’s about two women who have much in common despite their very different backgrounds. Carr, tall and blond and Nordic, is the daughter of a successful gastroenterologist. Goodman, short and dark and Jewish, has to cope with a father who, technically speaking, is a manager in the family business, but who, with his guitars and books and vinyl, is an unfulfilled artist and dreamer. But both dancers have recently given birth to sons, and both share an easy intimacy as well as the kind of sunny optimism that beams off the stage.

      There’s a funny bit about platypuses and a dreamlike image of a river made from a single blue rope. There’s a lot of illuminating discussion of Goodman and Carr’s work with the Aeriosa aerial dance troupe, and a funny display of the suitcase-full of togs and gear each carries on their excursions with child. There’s not a lot of outwardly impressive dance in this text-driven work, but there are a lot of finely honed gestures taken from everyday movement and then delivered, perfectly, at hyperspeed. And there’s a single, heartbreaking moment in which Carr reveals that her dad will never meet her baby, because he died 11 years before his grandson was born.

      Poignant and lovely, Here on the Ground held the audience’s attention for all of its 28 minutes.

      Narrative concerns don’t trouble Ame Henderson and Joshua Beamish’s Radios, in which the latter delivers a devastating solo turn. Gender fluidity might be the subtext—Beamish takes the stage in a suit jacket, flowing top, little black dress, and silver lamé undies—but it’s the lone performer’s physical fluidity that is the real star here. To an intermittent soundtrack of no-wave guitars and cranky singing, Beamish folds himself into an endless series of contorted postures, many of which seem to defy the laws of gravity. MOVE: the company’s founder has long been one of Vancouver’s most watchable performers, and nothing here will change that status.

      Alas, the night lapsed into tedium with closing number Isaac y Diola, even if this work by Brussels-based dancer-choreographers Antia Diaz and German Jauregui opened with the triple bill’s most startling image. The lights came up on the two naked dancers lying prone, with Diaz on top. Then the impossibly elongated Jauregui inched out from under her, leaving his lover asleep as he spidered across the floor.

      The set looks like some sort of mad brawl took place the night before, but why are all those overturned chairs so neatly placed across the back of the stage? That’s emblematic of a work that wants desperately to be transgressive but doesn’t even begin to get there. The two dancers dress, separately and very, very slowly; there’s an amusing but predictable bit with a chair and a saw; and the night ends with Jauregui enacting a repetitious ritual of male angst that had this viewer praying “Please, God, make it stop,” long before it actually did.

      There’s probably a parable about heteronormative power dynamics being enacted here, but an enactment is not a critique—and intense doesn’t always equal illuminating.

      Still, two out of three weren’t bad.