Dancing on the Edge festival showcases creativity of Noam Gagnon and Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg

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      At the Firehall on Monday, July 11. Continues July 12

      When well-known local artists take part in the Dancing on the Edge fest, you want to see them push to that metaphorical precipice. And at this week’s mixed Edge programs, the highlight was two people who usually perform their own distinctive solo work taking that leap to create pieces for others.

      Co. Vision Selective’s Noam Gagnon, who has flown mostly solo since his years with Holy Body Tattoo, found fresh new focus in the form of dancer Meredith Kalaman. In the Edge 2 program’s intense study Through the Waters, Gagnon invented a new language of broken-down movement set to the industrial roar of Stefan Smulovitz’s soundscape and the ethereal wailing of Antony and the Johnsons. His electric, angst-ridden muse would take a hand and frantically fold her limbs under her like a paper doll, or bend her arms up behind her like broken wings. Sensuality gave way to hair-flailing violence in a split second.

      On the same program, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, best known for channelling twisted solo characters like bANGER’s heavy-metal hesher, set her comedic, theatrical movement on three female dancers with archly hilarious, kookily creative results. In an excerpt from her upcoming Highgate, Alison Denham, Bevin Poole, and Kim Tuson wore Victorian funeral dresses joined at the skirts, and Friedenberg found infinite ways to intertwine them and play their pasty white limbs and faces off the black garb. Watch for this one at the Cultch next year: the piece could be one of her strongest when it debuts at full length, with six dancers.

      Rounding out the strong Edge 2 program was Donna Redlick’s The Place Between (which continues on is own from tomorrow to Thursday [July 12 to 14]). Set in the Firehall’s atmospheric upper rehearsal studio, it used mirrors and text scrawled across them to play cleverly with philosophical ideas of perception. Audience members were even given little handheld mirrors to watch dancers Redlick, Salome Diaz, and Jeannine Miller when they performed behind them. Fun and thought-provoking.

      Diaz made another magnetic appearance in her solo on the Edge 3 program—Happiness, choreographed by Kokoro Dance’s Barbara Bourget. It’s a small, soulfully sensual piece about a woman finding herself, first feeling her own skin then finding her hips and swinging them in a languorous, butoh-influenced tempo.

      That program’s other work, Usha Gupta’s cross-cultural experiment Asht nayika, didn’t flow together as well as it should have—but you had to give the Alberta artist points for trying. A classical South Asian kathak dancer (Sudeshna Maulik), a Spanish flamenco dancer (Esperanza Linares), and a contemporary dancer (Alida Nyquist-Schultz) shared the stage in a piece about “women’s lifelong journey”. There were moments when the movement coalesced—the stamping flamenco footwork juxtaposed with the ankle bells and slamming feet of the kathak performer—but the messages strained too earnestly.