Review: (Montreal / Dance) Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid & Chorus II
A Beautiful Contradiction by Chad Dembski, Editor, Dance
After one of the most bizarre mixes of two diverse companies I left the Cinquième Salle last night curious how programming decisions are made. Artists often have control over their own work to a certain extent but not always where and how their work is presented. Sometimes two very different shows are put together as a way to show two sides of similar research or at other times a common theme in a body of work.
The first piece entitled ‘Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid’ was created and performed by Tentacle Tribe. A recently formed company (2012) that is Emmanuelle Le Phan and Elon Hoglund, a duo that have been performing together since 2005. This is their first full work together in this company but both have extensive backgrounds in circus, contemporary dance and street dance. Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid is a simple show in many ways, two bodies in space, weaving in and out of each other and the layered lighting. Guided by a compelling score that comes from a variety of sources (including Elon himself) the two performers have an instantly watchable style that mixes street and breakdance with whispers of modern and contemporary dance. While they have a fantastic chemistry, the longer the piece went on the more I craved a stronger diversity in the work. Although it was a strong research method I didn’t find the work could sustain my attention for a full 45-minute program. It would be interesting to see this duo work with a larger group and force them outside the comfort zone of their intimate partnership.
After a 15-20 minute intermission the audience was invited to come on stage and sit in a couple of rows of seats provided. This invitation helped bring intimacy to Chorus II that had previously had its Montreal premiere at the MAI in the Spring of 2013. Wants & Needs Danse is Sasha Kleinplatz and Andrew Tay who are known for hosting the always popular Short & Sweet series in various Montreal venues. Both are established artists in their own right and Chorus II is a strong and vibrant statement by the company. Six dancers and one musician come onstage in the dark and slowly bring in a gorgeous and subtle hum that instantly brought me into the piece. A drum pierces the silence and lights blast in announcing the beginning of what is an unpredictable, tender and exhilarating production. There is constant tension in the piece due to the incredible connection of the company to each other and the playful use of noise and silence. I had seen the previous incarnation of Chorus II at the MAI and re-found my love for it. There is struggle in the piece, a reaching for a blissful giving over and gorgeous exploration of male intimacy. While rooted in the movements of traditional Jewish prayer that in no way sums up what the piece is about. Like a lot of spiritual expression it is both personal and communal, acts of solo yearning and moments of group togetherness. There is a play between attempting to reach another plane and the gorgeous subtle act of praying and waiting for answers. This dynamic constantly surprised me as the dancers seemed both in perfect control and also ready to explode out of control. The intense music helped bring a tension into the room not all audience members seemed to enjoy but provided a great spine to the piece. The set and lighting created a beautiful punch that on the surface said rock n’ roll but also provided a generous open template for open interpretation. Choreographer Sasha Klienplatz and her group of insanely talented dancers (Ben Kamino, Simon Portigal, Milan Panet-Gigon, Lael Stellick, Frederic Wiper and Nathan Yaffe with musician Jamie Thompson) helped show the possibilities of group collaboration. I am still reeling from this piece, not wanting the memory of it to ever fade.
In retrospective I am not sure what the impulse from Danse/Danse was to program these two pieces together in this space but still the risk has to be applauded. Local companies are never given much chance at this premium series and this evening proves they should be doing it way more.