Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: (Montreal / Dance) Antigone Sr.

(photo by Bengt Gustafsson)
Twenty Looks at the mind and soul of Trajal Harrell
by Chad Dembski

A 10 minute introduction at the beginning of the evening greets the audience and serves as a good preparation for the epic onslaught we are about to experience. In the humble and insightful opening Trajal Harrell explains that this piece is part of a series of works that come in different sizes (xs,s,m,l). The entire series is based on the proposal of bringing the dance and style of voguing into the modern dance of the 1960’s and the Judson Church in New York City. He explains it is not a historical interpretation but more in the realm of imagination and fantasy.  He also cautions that both the costumes and lights are a work-in-progress and that no matter what they will go on.  
This intro leads into a series of solo dances on white islands on the front of the stage to variety of music. A system seems to be set in place as each of these solos present an individual take on the aforementioned combination of styles. Then suddenly out of nowhere Trajal screams out to stop the show and all the lights go out. It is here where the Antigone aspect of the show begins to emerge and bring an interesting and bizarre element to it all. For regular theatregoers this radical pulling apart and extreme deconstruction of the Greek classic would probably be too much but there is a commitment in it that is addictive. In a way that doesn’t seem possible all three inspirations feed into each other and seem to blend in a way that is unique and totally refreshing.

The fashion runway show is a returning motive that is used often and to much entertainment as the costumes are a massive part of the piece. They in some ways are the sixth performer, being manipulated to recreate great fashion shows of the past. There is such a rich and simple theatrical element to fashion shows it is surprising it is not used more in contemporary performance. Here Trajal and his astounding performers bring a humour to their presentations that take away the ego and preciousness that haunt most fashion shows.  
Another extended section entitled We Are…” where two performers sitting on a small riser mention an almost never ending list of pop culture references. While this scene at first only seems to serve an impressive linguistic purpose, the length actually took me to another place entirely and did speak to power, relationship and how we are surrounded by popular culture. This playing with time, tedium, and repetition builds up to an explosive moment of dancing that seemed to be a gift or treat for the remaining audience members. During opening there were quite a few people leaving with the knowledge at two hours and 15 minutes it does test patience and endurance. 

Still Antigone Sr. (L) is a fascinating piece that has not left my mind in the last 12 hours since witnessing it.  I can easily see why Trajal and company are constantly on tour throughout the world, there is a seduction and pleasure in seeing work that is both a push into the future and a respect to the past.  

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