Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Salves

(Photo © Didier Grappe - Ennio Sammarco, Ulises, Alvarez, Vania Vaneau, Agustina Sario, Jeanne Vallauri, Teresa Cunha.)
A Chaos of Reckless Ideas
by Chad Dembski

I had heard of Compagnie Maguy Marin many times before as they had visited Montreal at the Festival TransAmériques and have been in existence since 1984.  They create Dance/Theatre a genre most famously done by Pina Bausch who changed the dance world with her use of performance and acting in her company in Germany.  The recent Wim Wenders dance documentary “Pina” was an exciting example of this hybrid that has been popular in Europe more and more with companies such as Needcompany, Les Ballets c. de la b. and Ultima Vez.  Here in Montreal we have Pigeons International, Carbone 14 (now disbanded) and the daring work of Dave St. Pierre as examples of choreographers who experiment with performance, text and theatrical tones in their practice.  

Last night's opening show of the 2013/2014 Danse Danse seriesm “Salves” by Compagnie Maguy Marin, was a highly controversial, bizarre and offensive show. Salves starts out with a quiet section of a lone man with a thin piece of black string walking around the stage until he invites one of the other members of the company up onto the stage.  One by one each member emerges from their audience seats and join the connected line of wandering dancers who don’t seem to have a point or place they are going.  This seems to be a guiding principle in the piece that has hundreds of ideas but no focus or regard for the effect of throwing them at an audience.  There are some repeated images; the whole group throwing planks of wood at each other, a woman being woken up while sitting, duets and trios watering flowers, a solo dancer with a broken plate and setting a dinner table.  If these images sound boring, pretentious or cheesy then you wouldn’t be far off, almost all of the scenes in the show last between 15-30 seconds long, almost none of them have any dance or text in them and so half the show is blackouts. 

Nothing really prepared me for an extremely bizarre and offensive part of the show where of one of the white woman dancers emerges from under a wooden structure in full blackface and black body suit with an enlarged bum and breasts.  The laughter from the audience almost made me think this section was okay but my shock at this moment would not go away even as scenes kept getting flung at me.  Another short scene of the same person dressed as a man talking to themselves barely audible also seemed to accent their disregard for their decisions on stage.  I have no idea if they were attempting to begin a discussion or “..escape the pervading anxiety crushing us…”(that’s from the choreographer's notes in the program) but I could not defend or understand the inclusion of this brief scene.  There is much in the show that is supposed to be 'light' and not taken seriously but that only seems to make the entire thing seem more a waste of time than anything.  The obvious extreme expense of the show (tons of props, costumes, giant set pieces) and history of the company would imply they have a lot of support all over the world and in France.  I usually applaud risk, experimentation and a willingness to push boundaries but Salves is a show I feel not worth the time, energy or money it demands.  

Salves runs to September 28

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