Critical Dance


Festival International de Nouvelle Danse 2001

le grand labo diary

Montréal, Québec
September 19 - October 6, 2001

By Lena Marie Stuart

  • kondition pluriel preview - 08.21.01
  • Chantal Pontbriand opens le grand labo - 09.19.01
  • Jérôme Bel - 09.19.01
  • O Rumo do Fumo (Vera Mantero) - 09.19.01
  • Jérôme Bel - 09.20.01
  • Xavier Le Roy - 09.21.01
  • Sarah Chase Dance Stories - 09.21.01
  • Mathilde Monnier - 09.22.01
  • O Vertigo (Ginette Laurin) - 09.23.01
  • Matthew Barney - 09.24.01
  • La Ribot - 09.25.01
  • Quatuor Albrecht Knust - 09.25.01
  • Compagnie Flak (José Navas) - 09.25.01
  • Trisha Brown Dance Company - 09.26.01
  • Thomas Lehmen - 09.28.01
  • Merce Cunningham Dance Company - 09.28.01
  • kondition pluriel (Marie-Claude Poulin et Martin Kusch) - 09.29.01
  • Boris Charmatz - 09.29.01
  • Manon fait de la danse (Manon Oligny) - 10.01.01
  • Russell Maliphant Company - 10.01.01
  • Massimo Guerrera - 10.02.01
  • Compagnie Marie Chouinard - 10.02.01
  • Vincent Dunoyer - 10.03.01
  • Daniel Larrieu - 10.04.01
  • Rosas (Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker) - 10.05.01
  • Christine De Smedt - 10.06.01
  • le grand labo wrap-up - 10.07.01

    Lecture Demonstration
    kondition pluriel: schème
    S.A.T. (Société des arts technologiques)

    kondition pluriel (Marie-Claude Poulin and Martin Kusch) are using MIDI and TCP/IP protocols to produce digital images with Softimage | 3D, and NATO to create real-time applications, for their work schème. All of the technical stuff aside, this project creates imaginary spaces with 3D projections, which the performer controls. This lecture demonstration showed a very short piece of choreography--and a few of the technical glitches that occur when new technologies are expected to "perform." Overall, this seemed like a well-developed project and the snippet that I saw left me wanting to see the finished creation, as well as crossing my fingers for the artists that all will go well on the tech. side in performance (the general audience are less inclined to be forgiving when they've forked out cash and have come to see a "show," as is well within their rights).

    The question and answer period following the demonstration included comments from one audience member who felt that a focus on technology in artistic projects takes away from the integrity of the art being practiced. In effect, that the use of technology is not 'pure expression.' As performance-based technology develops and artists are better able to manipulate it in order to produce works as they imagine them, in my view, technology is just another tool with which to explore their ideas and concepts. Poulin and Kusch are simply extending the boundaries of their artistic practice, not replacing art with technology.

  • kondition pluriel - schème
    28-29 September 2001
    Agora de la danse studio


    "La dance est une fête"
    --Chantal Pontbriand, Présidente-directrice, FIND

    In spite of slow ticket sales, which have been attributed to the terrorist attacks in the United States, those in attendance at the opening night of le grand labo seemed to be in a festive mood. It started with the eruption of a spontaneous wave just prior to the O Rumo do Fumo show at l'Agora de la danse, which travelled through the five sets of bleachers set in the round. At the Jérôme Bel show the audience could scarcely contain themselves (and one gentleman in particular, did not contain himself at all, hooting and catcalling through the opening speeches and applauding whenever he felt the urge--until the dark stares of those around him produced the retort, "I can applaud if I want to." "Yes. You can applaud," someone answered back, which resulted in a lot of laughter.)

    This festival truly is a laboratory, a mix of actions and reactions, challenging preconceived notions and ideas of what "nouvelle danse" is and where it's going in the millennium. Pontbriand and the programming team of the FIND are to be congratulated for taking on this difficult challenge and attempting to stir up the mix with shows that may or may not be every dance lover's cup of tea. "Is this dance? Do I care?" were questions I asked myself during the course of the evening. By the end, it didn't seem to matter much. I came away entertained and looking forward to the rest of what le grand labo has to offer.

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    Jérôme Bel [FRANCE]
    The show must go on
    Salle Ludger-Duvernay, Théâtre du Maurier of the Monument-National
    *NB. Links are RealAudio

    Conceived by: Jérôme Bel

    Performed by: Sonja Augart, Nicole Beutler, Olga de Soto, Herman Diephuis, Juan Dominguez, Dina ed Dik, Marie-Louise Gilcher, Carlos Pez, Benoit Izard, Cuqui Jerez, Eva Meyer Keller, Henrique Neves, Esther Snelder, Frédéric Seguette, Amaia Urra, Peter Vandenbempt, Hester van Hasselt, Simon Verde

    Music: Leonard Bernstein, Galt MacDermott, David Bowie, John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Erick "More" Morillo & M. Quashie, Lionel Richie, Mark Knopfler, A.Romero Monge & R. Ruiz, Nick Cave, J. Horner, W. Jennings, Louiguy, Edith Piaf, Paul Simon, The Police & Hugh Padgham, George Michael, Norman Gimbel & Charles Fox, Queen

    I have the feeling that Jérôme Bel has watched a lot of GAP ads. If you find them entertaining, as I do, you probably would have enjoyed Bel's show, which felt like one long GAP commercial. If you couldn't care less, well, you get the picture.

    I couldn't decided if Bel wants to create some kind of social experiment with this work or if he is just amusing himself with physical comedy. Maybe it's a bit of both. The intro was two songs played back to back, and as the audience sat in darkness, it became clear that Bel was going to use music as the text for the evening's events.

    When the cast finally walked on stage, all nineteen of them, they stood silently only breaking into movement for the chorus of David Bowie's Let's Dance. During Erick "More" Morillo's I like to move it one of the cast member drops his pants and 'swings free' for the entire song. I was amazed that he, er, kept it going so fast, for so long. I guess a lot of rehearsing must have got him in shape.

    One of the more poignant moments in the show was when Lionel Ritchie's Ballerina Girl came on over the PA and all of the men quickly left the stage. The women were left to act out their ballerina dreams. This was interesting--would those who obviously had some classical dance training put on an air of slacker-chic and not try too hard? Or would they give in to what's been trained into their bodies? Well, those who could, did. Those who couldn't were very funny, to say the least. I had a flashback to watching people on stage who have been hypnotized by "Reveen, the Impossibilist" when he gives them the suggestion that they are famous dancers.

    Bel's homage to the movie, Titanic, which was accompanied by Celine Dion's My Heart will Go On had the Québec audience practically rolling on the floor.

    It should be noted that the longest group sequence of choreography in the show was the Macarena.

    Although some of the audience left the theatre, those who stayed enjoyed themselves. They clapped and sang along, some got up and danced. Paul Simon's Sound of Silence which was periodically shut off was resurrected by the crowd whistling the tune in its absence.

    Québecers love sing alongs. Especially the youth. The success of the television game show La Fureur is a good indication of this; they gather weekly to watch the guest panel of Québec's musical stars guess song titles which allow the whole audience to burst into the song when the question is answered correctly. The show even has it's own dance and a team of go-go dancers. If Pontbriand and the programming committee were looking for something to bring in a new audience for contemporary dance, they hit the nail on the head with this one. For those who were less impressed, there's always Cunningham to look forward to.

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    O Rumo do Fumo (Vera Mantero) [PORTUGAL]
    Poesia e Salvajeria
    Agora de la danse Studio

    Direction: Vera Mantero

    Performed by: Nuno Bizarro, Ana Sofia Goncalves, Vera Mantero, Margarida Mestre, Frans Poelstra, Christian Rizzo

    Music: Étant donnés, Air, Bisk, Oval v/s Main, Photek

    This was the kind of show where everyone gets naked. Or at least strips down to their skivvies at some point.

    The show began with a bumbling march around the circumference of the performance space, each of the six cast members wearing a mishmash of headgear that covered their eyes, if not their entire face. They bumped into audience members and prattled away to each other in a jumbled speech reminiscent of the Teletubbies. In fact, I felt like I was watching something that had been programmed for children. Until the masks came off that is. That's when the chaos started.

    At this point a game erupted, and the toys strewn around the space, an exercise ball, balloons, candles, plastic swords and other assorted objects, were used by the performers to entertain themselves and/or the other performers. The action developed in child-like self-absorbed states, a structured improvisation. The performers would sing together, phrases like 'central heating' or 'whole fucking thing's lost' over and over and over. Clothes were changed or discarded altogether. Candles ended up in the clothes dryer, food ended up on the performers and on the floor. Cocoa powder strewn on the floor was used to make patterns until the water that was dumped on top of it resulted in a contact-improv mud wrestling fiasco.

    The antics on stage were amusing, and with six performers, there was always something to watch or someone to divert your attention. Hundreds of super balls pounded down from the ceiling at the end of the performance, a thunder of colour to finish off the game. Vera Mantero has not only left her ballet background behind, she has left dance in the dust. Or should I say in the cocoa powder.

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    Jérôme Bel [FRANCE]
    The show must go on
    Salle Ludger-Duvernay, Théâtre du Maurier of the Monument-National

    I liked this show so much I saw it a second time (see 09.19.01 for review). This is the first dance festival I have been to where an audience member asked me if I wanted to dance during a performance. And this is the only show I have ever been to where I thought using popular music with lyrics actually worked (Nick Cave in a contemporary dance performance???). Maybe that's because this work is more about movement and how popular music speaks to us than conventional dance.

    And finally, this is the first dance show I have been to where I wanted a set list of the music. So for those who asked me for a copy of mine:

  • Tonight (West Side Story), Leonard Bernstein
  • Let the Sun Shine In (Hair), Galt MacDermott
  • Come together (Beatles), John Lennon/Paul McCartney
  • Let's Dance, David Bowie
  • I Like To Move It, Erick "More" Morillo/M. Quashie
  • Ballerina Girl, Lionel Richie
  • Private Dancer (Tina Turner), Mark Knopfler
  • Macarena, A. Romero Monge/R.Ruiz
  • Into My Arms, Nick Cave
  • My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion), James Horner/Will Jennings
  • Yellow Submarine (Beatles), John Lennon/Paul McCartney
  • La Vie En Rose, Edith Piaf
  • Imagine, John Lennon
  • Sound of Silence, Paul Simon
  • Every Breath You Take, The Police
  • I Want Your Sex, George Michael
  • Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flack), Norman Gimbel,Charles Fox
  • The Show Must Go On, Queen

    click on photos to enlarge

    Xavier Le Roy [GERMANY/FRANCE]
    Théâtre du Maurier, Monument-National

    Choreographed and performed by: Xavier LeRoy in collaboration with Laurent Goldring
    Music: Diana Ross

    "I feel like I just spent an hour watching a guy with his head up his ass," was what my friend Eric had to say after watching Self-Unfinished. I had to concur.

    Xavier LeRoy has taken navel gazing to an all time low. Spending most of the show with his legs over his head and his back to the audience, clothed and later unclothed, he could have been contemplating the universe for all I know, but I'm sure his thoughts had more to do with himself, hence the use of 'self' in the title.

    At his most entertaining he walked with his hands on the floor and his dress, a Graham-esque lycra number, pulled over his head. When he was naked and the audience only had his twitching bum to look at a lot of people giggled at the sight, but I wasn't exactly thrilled. If LeRoy had something to say about himself, anything else, or was doing something the slightest bit interesting, then seeing his bum in all its shinning glory would have been fine with me.

    As I waited for the show to wind it's way to a close, I contemplated applauding in order to force an early exodus. So when LeRoy finally put his clothes back on, turned on the boombox, and slipped out through the audience, I was grateful. We were left listening to Diana Ross sing Upside Down. Maybe the BeeGee's Jive talkin' would have been a better choice.

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    Sarah Chase Dance Stories [CANADA]
    Lamont Earth Observatory & Muzz
    Espace Tangente

    Choreographed and performed by: Sarah Chase
    Music : Bill Brennan

    Sarah Chase tells stories while she dances. They are vignettes of her life woven together into amusing and charming tales. Her honesty is refreshing; she has stripped away any pretence or posturing in both her dancing and her text. When she tells you that she danced slowly for her great-grandmother, so that "she could see how flexible I was," you can't help but believe that she's telling you the truth. If she's fibbing, she's a great liar.

    Her easy grace is emblematic of her cozy childhood. Some would say that she has led a charmed life. The trial of dealing with her great-grandmother's passing is overcome by the knowledge that visions of Chase dancing softened her final days.

    Chase's childhood, spent wandering the Lamont Earth Observatory where her grandfather presided, and playing at the beach where she studied the flora and fauna, suggest a trouble-free and tranquil youth. The way she tells the story of her life through text and movement interspersed with home movies is mesmerizing; it's like watching the ocean waves, endlessly lapping against the shore. Chase's work is like a lazy summer day, when it draws to close the feeling is one of calm and tranquil satisfaction.

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    Mathilde Monnier [FRANCE]
    Les lieux de là
    Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts

    Choreography : Mathilde Monnier

    Performed by : Seydou Boro, Dimitri Chamblas, Bertrand Davy, Herman Diephuis, Corinne Garcia, Rémy Héritier, Éric Houzelot, I-Fang Lin, Joel Luecht, Rita Quaglia, Salia Sanou

    Music : Heiner Goebbels
    Musician : Alexandre Meyer

    This was the most physically energetic show I have seen yet at le grand labo. There didn't seem to be any theme to this piece based on improvised and abstract movement and music. In the first section, the ten dancers, clad in dark blue and black shirts and slacks, threw themselves and each other around the stage as musician Alexandre Meyer, seated upstage, plucked away at the guitar to Goebbel's avant-garde score. One dancer jumped into a free dive onto the floor, eliciting a couple of shrieks from the audience. Stage right was piled high with cardboard boxes that were later used as landing pads for some of the dancers performing the same kind of free fall jumps. Stage left was four sheets of plywood, which created a long wall with two-foot wide spaces between them which the performers sometimes slipped between and slid down from, hanging sideways like big insects. It was clear that this group was used to working with each other and were able to do things that require a great deal of trust, like being thrown and caught. Working in groups, duets, trios and solos, which overlapped at various times kept the work interesting.

    The second part had the dancers slowly rolling in a giant mass, slipping off their dark shirts and replacing them with more colourful ones. Some had already changed into vibrantly coloured pants. While they rolled over each other, stagehands removed the boxes to reveal huge swaths of grey coloured material piled up on the side of the stage. This section was a little long and lacked the intensity of the first half. The stagehands moving the boxes held my attention a lot longer than the performers. There were some nice moments later in the group section where the dancers formed a line in the middle of the stage and created a living tableau that seemed to have a life of its own. It was as if individual cells were coming together to create a new organism with each shift.

    When the dancers began to work with the grey material, pulling it from one side of the stage to the other, there were some synchronization problems. Up to this point in the piece different things were always happening on stage, so when movements that were supposed to be performed in unison were a little sloppy it was surprising to see, as this group had appeared to be so in synch with each other. I would have liked to see a little more tension in the third part of the work because it started to die a little in terms of focus. The dancers were still energized but it seemed like something bigger could have been built out of the dragging, stretching and folding bolts of cloth. You could argue that this piece, as a more of an installation than a narrative work, doesn't require a driving force, that it can simply just 'be,' but whatever the momentum was at the beginning was gone by the end.

    Ultimately, I found the strength and beauty of Les lieux de là to be the intense and very personal kinaesthetic explorations of the individual performers, belying the intention of the piece as simply an abstract creation.

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    O Vertigo (Ginette Laurin) [CANADA]
    Salle Ludger-Duvernay, Monument-National

    Choreography: Ginette Laurin

    Performed by: Anne Barry, Mélanie Demers, Kenneth Gould, Patrick Lamothe, Chi Long, Anna Riede, Marie-Claude Rodrigue, David Rose, Donald Weikert

    Rehearsal coach: Raymond Brisson
    Set and lighting: Axel Morgenthaler
    Sound: Larsen Lupin and Ginette Laurin
    Costumes: Carmen Alie and Denis Lavoie of Trac costume
    Music: Peter Scherer, Karl Friedrich Abel, Johannes Schenck, Marin Marais, Tobias Hume, Terre Thaemlit, Lithops, SND, T. Brinkmann, Noto, David Cunningham, Neina, Anonymous 4, Gramm

    I thoroughly enjoyed Luna. Although it does not seem that Ginette Laurin has made any huge departures from any of her previous choreography with this piece, it was still an enthralling experience. I have always felt that the strength of her work is in the partnering, whether it's in duets or trios. There is an easy grace the makes it all look so fluid and simple, although it's very athletic and gymnastic. I loved watching the four men perform in duets together. It's nice to see men partnering each other in a way that doesn't just exploit their strength, but shows them off as the superb dancers they are. The mismatched groups of duets, woman and woman, man and man, woman and man were just as wonderful. Less interesting was the multitude of small hand gestures that the dancers performed. There was too much repetition of them and they seem a little dated, reminding me of Édouard Lock in his early work.

    The dancers, wearing small wireless mics, used a lot of audible breath but it never sounded forced as it often can in performance. The narration was interesting but not necessary, I thought the work would have spoken just as clearly without it. And the women did a very admirable job of singing in one section.

    The huge magnifying glasses were an interesting prop and worked best on the rolling stands. It was a nice effect when one was used with a camera and the reflection was projected on to the upstage scrim. I didn't like them as much when they were rolled across the stage with dancers moving behind them.

    The enormous hoop skits were beautiful under certain lights. I wasn't really enthusiastic about the video that was projected on to one of them, but I liked the video projection of one of the dancer's legs from beneath the skirt and the duet that occurred between two of the dancers there. I don't want to nitpick, but the material that was used for the overskirts, which was very light and airy, gave the audience a full view of the stand the dancer was on under some of the lights. Something less sheer might have worked a little bit better as this took away from the illusion somewhat. And when the dancers swept over people lying on the stage, supposedly spiriting them away, very small fishing weights sewn into the hems would have kept them down--but still allowed the skirts to rise when necessary. Seeing the performers walking like ducks underneath the skirts was a little funny.

    Those small technicalities aside, this is a very effective piece. It's also a good example of why Laurin's summer workshops are so very popular. There is such a substantial and tangible kinaesthetic strength in what she creates. Watching her dancers makes you want to beg her to let you join her company. That might sound effusive, but I'm not joking, her choreography is that powerful.

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    Matthew Barney [USA]
    Cremaster 1
    Ex-Centris Cinema (Le Parallèle)

    A cremaster is a muscle that forms a thin network of fascicles around the spermatic cord and testis and elevates the testis (and which retracts them in cold or fear). In the last five days of le grand labo I have seen more male frontal nudity than you can shake a stick at. I'm really starting to wonder if this is a sub-theme for the festival. Thankfully Matthew Barney's Cremaster 1 only refers to male genitalia in an abstract fashion.

    This is an artfully created film that sweeps you away to a fantasy world where a Boise, Idaho football stadium has blue astro-turf and surreal chorus girls, in outfits that are Ziegfield Follies meets the Jetsons, dance an homage to Busby Berkeley. Meanwhile, high above the pastel playing field two phallic Goodyear blimps are floating. Four frosty flight attendants watch over a table where a gelatin model of a cremaster is surrounded by grapes. Underneath this table lives the palid Goodyear woman who claws a tiny hole that she pulls the grapes through. The patterns she creates with the grapes are emulated by the chorus girls below.

    This film is dream-like in quality, with a wonderful aesthetic sensibility. It's also has some fantastic fashion; the flight attendants wear uniforms designed by Isaac Mizrahi and the chorus girls wear Manolo Blahniks on their feet. Cremaster 1 is a delightful escape, a sly wink at the relationship between abundance and sexuality.

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    Still Distinguished
    Espace Tangente

    Conceived and performed by: La Ribot

    Music : Carles Santos, Atom tm/LB, Paolo Conte, Velma

    La Ribot's To Do List
    Liste à faire de La Ribot

    1. Ask rich uncle to purchase high end video equipment, monitors
      demandez à l'oncle riche d'acheter l'equipments vidéo, des écrans, très cher

    2. Buy garlic, tomatoes, oil (to rub all over body in video)
      acheter de l'ail, des tomates, et de l'huile (pour frotter partout sur le corps dans le vidéo)

    3. Wash striped panties
      lavage des petites cullotes à bande

    4. Borrow orange sweatshirt (to stay warm for first five minutes of piece until I'm naked)
      Emprunter le sweatshirt orange (pour me maintenir au chaud pendant les cinq premières mintues de la pièce jusqu'à ce que je sois nu)

    5. Buy shoes at thrift store - one pair neon pink mules, asorted satin bridesmaid's shoes dyed various bright colours
      acheter les chaussures, assortiement couleurs fleurissant à un magasin de seconde main

    6. Find small props, children's toys in trash
      trouver des petits articles et des jouets pour enfants dans les détritus

    7. Look around house for red objects, red clothing, etc.
      trouver des objects et vêtements rouges dans mon appartement

    8. Buy blond wig and barrettes (use to clip blond swatch from wig on to pubic hair)
      acheter une perruque blonde et des barrettes (attacher une mèche provenant de la perruque sur les poils pubique)

    9. Get rubber panties from fetish shop
      obtenir des petites culottes en caoutchouc dans un magasin fétiche

    10. Start crochet
      commencer à faire du crochet

    11. Borrow copy of Don Quixote from the library
      emprunter un livre de Don Quichotte à la biblothèque

    12. Take apart wooden folding chair (use wood laths to tape on to body)
      démontage d’une chaise en bois (employez les morceaux de bois pour attacher avec du ruban à gommer sur le corps)

    13. Check with Vera Mantero for extra tape
      emprunter à Vera Mantero une couple de rouleau de ruban à gommer supplémentaire

    14. Write those new electronic CDs I want into the budget
      ajoutez au budget mes disques compacts de musique électroniques préférer

    15. Get bikini wax
      faire une épilation du bikini

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    Quatuor Albrecht Knust [FRANCE]
    Continuous Project/Altered Daily
    Agora de la danse Studio

    Choreography: Yvonne Rainer

    Rereading: Quatuor Albrecht Knust (Dominique Brun, Anne Collod, Simon Hecquet, Christophe Wavelet)

    Performed by: Dominique Brun, Anne Collod, Simon Hecquet, Christophe Wavelet, Martha Moore, Alain Buffard, Matthieu Doze, Xavier Le Roy, Emmanuelle Huynh

    "Yvonne Rainer has said that one of the frustrating things about her fame in the sixties was the knowledge that she was not so much being singled out because of something she did, but because she existed in a world that felt the need to single one person out of a group of peers as star or genius."
                --Dance Online, Inc.


    Continuous Project - Altered Daily, devised by Yvonne Rainer, was originally performed in 1970 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Quatuor Albrecht Knust have revived Rainer's experimental and improvisational piece in which assigned tasks are performed with specified objects. I'm not exactly sure why they have chosen to do this. This is not to say that I don't admire Rainer's work tremendously and her contribution to the post-modernist movement. I just think it has had its day. It's not shocking or surprising to see a "dance performance" like this anymore. Rainer herself moved on to filmmaking in the mid 70's.

    Rainer's employment of the post-structuralist theory that "we live in a linguistic universe and that language is a 'transparent' medium which hands over experience whole and unproblematically," is somewhat flawed, as demonstrated by the Q.A.K. cast. When Rainer's choreographic instructions were read aloud it was clear that language, as a device to impart choreographic instructions, does not work very well. It does provide comic relief but I'm not sure that was Rainer's original intention.

    Cultural theories aside, Quator Albrecht Knust were very funny, using some of the following in their list of assigned tasks: yielding, pillow slide, steam roller, jerky group, text (a reading of a passage by Samuel Beckett), Esther William (a running dive into the arms of the other players), group hoist, paper cartons (piling and un-piling of cardboard appliance boxes). The performer who did not know the set choreographic phrase and was always a movement behind the group was hilarious. Watching him play catch-up had some of the audience in stitches. I felt like I was watching a show in someone's basement, it was all very casual. The performers all wore running shoes, t-shirts and sweatpants. The DJ looked like someone's father. In fact, the records he played, which included a lot of Mowtown, sounded exactly like what someone's father would choose for a party.

    Did the performance impart any of the cultural significance of Rainer's work? Did it provoke discussions about what dance is? No, but it was good for a laugh.

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    Compagnie Flak (José Navas) [CANADA]
    Haman/Navas Project
    Salle Ludger-Duvernay, Monument-National

    Choreographed and performed by: José Navas

    Music: Benjamin Britten, Allan Hovhaness

    Cellist: Walter Haman

    If you have a friend who likes ballet but is a little unsure about whether they would like contemporary dance, this would be a great show to bring them to. No one is ever naked (although they do remove their shirts and Navas does a quick change on stage), the dancing is recognizable as "dance," the music doesn't have any electronic bleeps and blurps, and the sexual politicking is relatively tame. José Navas and Walter Haman have constructed a soulful piece that focuses on a relationship between two men, allowing a glimpse into their shared world.

    The set is simple but lovely. It consists of a cityscape projected on to the upstage wall with three cables strung horizontally across the span of the stage like the strings of a cello. Chairs are strewn about, suggesting a wind-blown rooftop. José Navas winds and unwinds himself between the taut cables until cellist Walter Haman arrives and picks up one of the chairs in the middle of the performance space and sits with his back to the audience. Haman, a principal cellist with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra (Italy) and the Napa Valley Symphony (California) plays superbly. Accompanied by Haman, Navas moves to the floor where he twists his arms and body in contorted positions, travelling around the stage in a long arc.

    The ardour the two men feel for each other is unmistakable when Navas places one hand over Haman's eyes and the other on his chest, Haman playing all the while. When Haman moves upstage and slowly smokes a cigarette, he makes this request of Navas: "Would you do something for me? Would you wear the red shoes?" Navas obliges and dances a fast, twirling number in red high heels. It's not a drag queen act though; it's as if the shoes belong to Navas in everyday life and they seem perfectly well suited to what he is doing. Navas moves smoothly and effortlessly with clean gestures that are reminiscent of ballet but still maintain a modern quality.

    The Haman/Navas Project is a skilled artistic collaboration of seductive chemistry.

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    Trisha Brown Dance Company [USA]
    El Trilogy
    Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts

    Choreography : Trisha Brown

    Performed by : Kathleen Fisher, Sandra Grinberg, Mariah Maloney, Brandi Norton, Seth Parker, Lionel Popkin, Stacy Matthew Spence, Todd Stone, Katrina Thompson, Abigail Yager

    Music : Dave Douglas

    The Trish Brown Company opened their performance at the FIND with a solo from Claudio Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo. It was a poignant and touching tribute to those who were lost or injured in the tragedy of September the 11th. Kathleen Fisher, as the messenger, danced a sombre reflection of the intense grief that has enveloped so many people. This solo was a heart-rending testament to the events that have so deeply affected us all.

    Brown's El Trilogy seems like an answer to those who might be struggling to find moments of light after the dark days of the past few weeks. Her choreography is such a joyous and bright expression of how wonderful life can be. Dave Douglas' jazz score throws extra sparkles into the mix. The light-hearted mood is just so…American. The fresh-faced dancers, costumed in bright colours, move in a carefree style that is soft but articulate. They seem so wholesome; you can almost picture them drinking milk and eating oreo cookies after the show (a recent trend in NYC was after-hours milk and cookie bars). It's hard not to love them.

    Five Part Weather Invention is a lot like the scribbles that cover the horizontal lines of the projection on the back wall. It's as if Brown is doodling with the dancers. A big swoosh here, a sharp line there. It's abstraction at its best, non-committal and unrestrained. The "follow the leader" section is playful improvisation that is reminiscent of a 1970's video using motion trails.

    Rapture to Leon James was probably my least favourite part of El Trilogy. Maybe it's because I find little to relate to in a picture of Americana that is well before my time. This flashback to a happier era references the lindy-hop, with little wrist flicks and swinging circle skirts. It was sweet and saucy. One of the dancers receives a kiss during the piece, a gentle reminder of the innocence we have lost.

    Groove and Countermove closed the show. The unpredictable moments: dancers falling and the audience realizing, to their delight, that the falls are choreographed, are what give this work its charm. It's loose-limbed and fancy-free with another kiss for good measure. Brown's dancers move in endless patterns that shift direction and intention at the drop of a hat.

    The solo dances that occur during the two set changes were an interesting twist to the show. The first is angular and intense and it resulted in the audience errupting into applause at its finish. The second is a slow meander from position to position on an aluminium ladder, with long pauses from which to coolly observe the audience.

    El Trilogy is optimistic and heartening. It's the kind of dance a lot people need to see right now.

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    Thomas Lehmen [GERMANY]
    Mono subjects
    Théâtre du Maurier, Monument-National

    Created and choreographed by: Thomas Lehmen

    Choreographed and performed by, and music by: Thomas Lehmen, Gaetan Bulourde, Maria Clara Villa-Lobos, and Thomas Lehmen

    Technical Director: Götz Dihlmann

    The term 'existential' has been bandied about in reference to Thomas Lehman recently, I think that's just because he's German. If he was American no one would give his choreography that classification, it would seem far too severe for what he's doing. It just doesn't seem like the kind of work that should be over-analyzed or endowed with academic labels. Lehman doesn't quite fit into the 'serious artist' role. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he removes all of his clothing on stage, incorporates a jazz dance routine into the piece, and then recreates the moment he injured himself on stage in Hong Kong. The stuff he does leans heavily towards physical comedy rather than technical dance movement. I found it very funny--so comical at times that it was difficult to contain my laughter. The gentleman seated to my right did not find it very amusing at all. I think he may have had a much better time at the Merce Cunningham show (where everyone kept their clothes on, thank you very much).

    Like every good comedian, Lehman has a 'straight-man,' in this case a 'straight-woman' -- pokerfaced Maria Clara Villa-Lobos. Her ability to remember and perform long, kooky dance phrases was impressive. Gaetan Bulourde is the Don Knotts of contemporary dance. He's funny just standing there doing nothing. When he performs Lehman's absurd choreography he's over the top.

    Lehman has styled a slacker-esque production with strips of tin foil as a backdrop and cowboy hats perched on top of the three bass cabinets that line the stage. Unfortunately, all we got for music out of the bass guitars was loud distortion. Lehman must care as little for notes and chords as he does for what most people would describe as dance. He is a fan of soccer though, as we learned from his description of his recent knee injury.

    Mono subjects ends in darkness with Lehman tossing small neon fluorescent light sticks on to the stage. You can read whatever deep meaning you want to into that, I think he probably just thought they looked cool.

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    Merce Cunningham Dance Company [USA]
    Biped & Summerspace
    Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts

    Choreography : Merce Cunningham

    Performed by : Cédric Andrieux, Jonah Bokaer, Lisa Boudreau, Ashley Chen, Paige Cunningham, Holley Farmer, Jennifer Goggans, Mandy Kirschner, David Kulick, Koji Minato, Daniel Squire, Jeannie Steele, Derry Swan, Robert Swinston, Cheryl Therrien

    Music : Morton Feldman (Summerspace), Gavin Bryars (Biped)

    The FIND's presentation of Merce Cunningham felt like a history lesson to me. What is it that they say about how we must never repeat history? Sorry, my mistake, that has something to do with WWII. I know that when you are as established as Merce Cunningham is, it's probably unlikely that anyone ever tells you that they don't like your work. I know, Cunningham is a venerated choreographer, etc., etc., and I wish I could say I liked the performance because I'm feeling a good dose of Christian guilt as I write this, and I don't even go to church anymore. I don't understand how Cunningham could have spent the last forty years creating such static, formal work. If I did not know that Summerspace was choreographed in 1958, I would have sworn that he used the software "Lifeforms" to create it because it had that same mechanical feeling as some computer generated work. The movement went from one difficult position to the next, the dancers straining all the while with little, if any, release in any of the transitions. Those dancers deserve a medal for undertaking such physically demanding choreography. Jumping over and over and over on one leg from a standing arabesque position can't be anything but work. You could tape sticks on to the dancer's spines and they wouldn't bend much. Flow is clearly not in Cunningham's vocabulary.

    The movement in Biped was slightly softer than Summerspace, which is interesting as this piece was created with a computer. The dancers still had to fight with the choreography though. Usually women look more fluid than men on stage but in this case the men actually looked better. I think their brute strength helped. I started to wonder how long dancers last in Cunningham's company before they succumb to injury. But I digress, this is not about the individual dancers, it is about capital A, "Art." I liked the motion capture images in the piece; they were powerful and gave the work some much-needed life. They flowed a lot more than the dancers on stage. The costumes for Biped were hideous silver creations, I think I've seen some of them in aerobic competitions where the women have big hair, tan coloured nylons and too much make-up on. The silver bed jackets and pajamas weren't much better. Most unfortunate to me was that it seemed Cunningham didn't really grasp the depth of Gavin Bryars' music. The dancers were always restricted to moving to the counts on the surface of the score, they were never allowed to explore the resonant sounds of the cello and double bass. I guess that's Cunningham's style.

    Although I can appreciate Cunningham's reserved exploration of movement from an academic perspective, it never really moved me. I know some people will find that blasphemous, so I'll save you the sermon and go do my penance at the FIND's five hour choreographic marathon...

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    kondition pluriel (Marie-Claude Poulin et Martin Kusch) [CANADA/AUSTRIA]
    Agora de la danse

    Conception and Realization: Marie-Claude Poulin and Martin Kusch

    Choreography and Performance: Line Nault and Marie-Claude Poulin

    Media Environment: Martin Kusch

    Sound Installation: Alexandre St-Onge

    "Despite the imposing number of technical devices, schème is attentive to the aesthetic effects of the installation and to the emotional presence of the actors."

    That's what is says in the schème outline on the Daniel Langlois Foundation website. I had hard time seeing that represented in this work. Unless you want to count "emotional presence" as occasional vocal sounds akin to those made by very small children. I understand that using some of this technology limits the choreographic development to a degree, but I would have liked to see more from this piece. I wasn't left with the impression that it was a conscious decision on the part of the creators to remove any trace of character from the work; it just appeared a little underdeveloped. It's admirable to want to create something that has an equal emphasis in all of its facets (in the use of performers, and the technology, etc.), but a socialist perspective doesn't always produce the best results in art. That's probably why there are so many mini-dictators working in the field. When you present a work within a performance context it's worth addressing that as an essential factor in its construction. If it's an installation then that's another story, but sitting people in seats in a theatrical venue suggests to the audience that some kind of drama will unfold. I did like some of the images that were projected on to the small scrims that were propped up in the space but they didn't really serve to take the piece anywhere.

    After seeing a preview in August, I was quite excited about the potential of this work, but this performance left me with the impression that this is a high concept production that could use some lowbrow entertainment value.

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    Boris Charmatz [FRANCE]
    Con forts fleuves
    Usine C

    Choreography: Boris Charmatz

    Performed by: Nuno Bizarro, Dimitri Chamblas, Boris Charmatz, Julia Cima, Olga de Soto, Vincent Dupont, Joris Lacoste, Myriam Lebreton and two others

    Music: Otomo Yoshihide

    Texts: John Giorno

    Boris Charmatz seems a little twisted. In my opinion that's not necessarily a bad thing. It gives him the freedom to explore ideas that are completely off the wall, such as having his dancers perform with pairs of pants wrapped tightly around their heads, bobbing and weaving around each other like mental cases for about an hour until wool blankets float down from the ceiling, covering the stage like a grey snowdrift.

    Unfortunately, Charmatz' strange ideas appear to have evolved in to what are most likely pale reflections of his original intentions. I suspect that Charmatz has explored the tangible side of movement to such an exacting degree that he feels the need to go to the opposite extreme in order to feel anything about dance at all. (Prozac could help.) At times I felt I was slipping into a scene that Goya would have painted, a dark place of conflicting emotions and deep distress.

    The internal chaos of this piece was echoed by the cacophony of sound created by Otomo Yoshihide and the miked vocal ramblings of the performers. My inital impression was that this show was just the contemporary dance version of a performance by the Japanese noise-core group 'The Boredoms.' Later I found out that Otomo Yoshihide has recorded and performed with Boredom's guitarist Seichi Yamamoto. I guess overlaps in the noise-core community resemble the somewhat incestuous relations of the dance world, demonstrated in this case by Charmatz using some of the same performers as Vera Mantero, Mathilde Monnier, Jérôme Bel, etc., etc.

    I would like to see more of what Charmatz has to offer to contemporary dance; people who appear to be slightly on the edge or disturbed--and are willing to explore that sometimes dangerous territory--interest me. Not so for the majority of the spectators it would seem. Con forts fleuves was a long hour for most of the audience, particularly for the people who are psychologically well adjusted.

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    Manon fait de la danse (Manon Oligny) [CANADA]
    24 x Caprices
    Agora de la danse

    Choreographic act: Manon Oligny

    Texts: Christine Angot

    Artistic collaboration: Sophie Michaud and Fabrice Boutique

    Performed by: Anne-Marie Boisvert, Noémie Godin-Vigneau, Annick Hamel, Mathilde Monnard

    Sound: Luc Mireault-Émond
    Lighting: Martin Labrecque
    Video director: Frédéric Moffet
    Esthetics of the show's image: Geneviève Oligny
    Photographic collaboration: Karine Milanov

    Oligny titled her lastest dance-theatre creation 24 x Caprices, but I think a better title would have been
    4 x Bridget[te] - A Tribute...

    Bridget[te] #1 - Bardot

    Four women in various portrayals of Bardot as the 60's sex kitten, literally bursting out of their clothes into assorted states of undress--but that's okay because they're liberated.

    Bridget[te] #2 - Jones

    As in Bridget Jones' Diary. Four women in various states of self-examination, lurch from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. Either laughing or crying hysterically or absorbed in moments of quite repose. "Am I too fat?" "How do I look?" "Is this outfit okay?" Asking all the questions that a modern woman should be reflecting upon today.

    Bridget[te] #3 - Fonda

    She was the mouthy, doped-out, bikini-clad surfer chick who lounged on the couch of her bad boy gang-banging boyfriend in Quentin Tarantino's 70's-styled film, Jackie Brown. Four women alternate zoning out and getting into the action, flirting with danger, kitschy-cool ladies on the hype tip. Word.

    Bridget[te] #4 - Nielsen

    Remember her? She was the ultra blond and ultra sexy Danish model/actress who married, and later divorced, Sylvester Stallone, followed by football player Mark Gastineau. Ultimately more famous as a sex-bomb pin-up than for her acting. Her online guest-book includes comments such as "I like your layout! i want to lick your feet.i imgine [sic] you with black underwear and high heels pretanding to be a school teacher," and, "Love the site, especially the swimsuit and topless pictures. Do you have any nude pics? Brigitte is the sexiest woman on the planet..." Four women star in a production that probably won't win the FIND's "Prix du Public," but will receive mash notes similar to the afore-mentioned.

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    Russell Maliphant Company [UNITED KINGDOM]
    Stream and Shift
    Salle Ludger-Duvernay, Monument-National

    Choreography: Russell Maliphant

    Performed by: Russell Maliphant (Shift); Russell Maliphant, Dana Fouras, Yuval Pick (Stream)

    Music: The Shirley Thompson Group

    Lighting: Michael Hulls

    The Russell Maliphant Company was well received in Montréal. The past two weeks of very experimental works have taken their toll on an audience hungry for pure dance. Maliphant is a strong dancer who was equally matched by Dana Fouras and Yuval Pick (Maliphant and Fouras are former members of London's Royal Ballet). There was a nice sense of evennesss and flow in all of the pieces that were performed, particularly in Dana Fouras' solo. And there was a good chemistry between the dancers. It was all very pleasant. Almost too much for my taste.

    During the performance I couldn't quite figure out what was bothering me, everything on stage was smooth: the lights, the music, and the choreography. My problem is that when I see dancers with as much ability as those on stage I want at least some of the choreography to push them a little, but none of these pieces ever seemed to go outside of the comfort zone. It was all well placed and precise, and quite frankly that was a little disappointing.

    The lifts that Maliphant and Fouras performed were far too predictable and repeated ad nauseam. I don't think simulating contact with ballet lifts is very contemporary. Maliphant hasn't really left ballet behind, he just dresses his dancers in baggy pants and shirts. I could literally picture him in the role of the prince in the afore-mentioned duet. I'm not saying that modern dance always has to be angst ridden and twitchy or that we need to have a sense of the work that's going on, because there will always be ballet companies looking to put modern works in their repertory that won't drive away their regular subscribers. There couldn't be a safer choice than Maliphant to fulfill that need.

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    Massimo Guerrera [CANADA]
    salle Beverley Webster Rolph, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal

    Concept: Massimo Guerrera

    Protagonists-performers: Massimo Guerrera, Myriam Lavoie, Corine Lemieux

    Music: Herri Kopter

    Massimo Guerrera's Darboral is being presented as both an installation and a performance. I haven't seen it in its installation form, but I hope it works better than the performance.

    The audience moves into a large room and sits on cushions surrounding the taped squares of carpet which have are decorated with low, square pastel-coloured, tin-foil edged tables. The tables are littered with fruit, bottles of juice and rocks. Casts of bones and body parts are piled high. Guerrera and the other two performers vary sitting at one of the tables and chewing on the fruit in front of them with performing movement in the space.

    The video on the large screen that accompanies the piece is initially interesting, even though it's basically the same thing that's happening in the space, because it's vivid and larger than life. The performers use chunks of bone to eat and sculpt mounds of neon-pink mashed potatoes and perform dance moves reminiscent of club dancing. They move outdoors where they use their mouths to pull at fruit hanging off of trees near a lake and snuffle at mushrooms on the ground. After awhile even that starts to wear thin. Sitting and waiting for them to do "something" becomes excruciating because it never really pans out.

    Back in the space we watch a woman spike apples on to the end of a long stick that is being held by the other woman, and then feed herself the speared fruit. She slowly rubs an apple on her clothing while Guerra and the other woman dance their jerky trip-hop moves. At one point Guerrera dances with white plastic bags tied over his shoes and one that he puts over his head, inhaling until it's tight to his skull so that he appears to look like some kind of demented Japanese-animation version of "Caspar the Friendly Ghost."

    There wasn't much to speak of in terms of choreography or structure in this show and the relationships between the three performers were never really defined. Some lighting might have been nice. It might have at least delineated the performers and the space somewhat, which all becomes too much (the objects) and too little (what the performers are doing) at the same time, leaving the audience feeling lacklustre about the entire experience.

    Ultimately this is the kind of presentation you would expect art school students to produce, when they're young, egocentric and inexperienced and have no concept of anyone but themselves. And whether you are falling asleep during their expression of self is of little consequence to them.

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    Compagnie Marie Chouinard [CANADA]
    Le Cri du monde and 24 Préludes de Chopin
    Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts

    Choreography : Marie Chouinard

    Performed by : Simon Alari, Kirsten Andersen, Elijah Brown, Julio Cesar Hong, SandrineLafond, Carla Maruca, Lucie Mongrain, Luciane Pinto, Isabelle Poirier, Carole Prieur, James Viveiros

    Music: Louis Dufort (Le Cri du monde), Frédéric Chopin (Les 24 préludes de Chopin)

    Marie Chouinard has an innate gift for revealing the sacred and the profane through movement. I am always surprised that someone can choreograph such powerful and contemporary work in which the thrust of the movement comes from the upper body, using a high center which is typical of ballet. Particularly since much of the canon of modern choreography has been predicated on the works of the likes of Martha Graham who pioneered moving from the pelvis, using a low center (the contraction), to speak with a commanding, and often fierce, voice. And Chouinard's choreography sometimes moves to the floor but could never be considered floor-work or contact, an aspect of contemporary dance that delineates modern movement from the classical, suggesting a kind of intensity and force from putting ones full weight into the ground instead of moving up and away from it. Yet there is nothing weightless or insubstantial about her work.

    In Chouinard's 24 Préludes de Chopin her dancers are presented as little savages, exuding irreverence with short black mowhawks attached to their heads. They wear see through black leotards and shorts with strategic strips of black tape placed across their chests and crotches. A barrage of flicking hands opens her piece, a mischievous dialogue with the music of Chopin.

    Chouinard has a distinct style in which the dancers spin and move swiftly on demi-pointe, limbs bent and hands poking and proding like sharp beaks. High-speed jumps are sudden and sharp, with little or no preparation. Her work recalls Nijinksy at times in the two-dimensionality of some of the movements in profile. The faces that the performers make are trademark Chouinard, screwed up and twisted like lunatics or mouths and eyes wide open in an expression of fury.

    Le Cri du monde is all about the latter, an enraged howl at the cosmos. It's a raw but articulate piece that shifts between solos, duets and group work. The musical score vibrates like the dancers on stage, pulsing as if it exists in a time without end. The climax is an apocalyptic moment, where the dancers release all of their energy into a deafening roar. It's a primal unleashing of physical tension and mental anguish.

    In an art form that is rife with muddied intention, it is Chouinard's substantial choreographic facility that allows her to explore abstract subjects with such visceral clarity. Many choreographers excel at presenting movement that is beautiful or virtuousic, and others bring theatricality to contemporary dance, but few can do both with the skill of Marie Chouinard.

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    Vincent Dunoyer [BELGIUM]
    The Princess Project, duo/prelude
    Espace Tangente

    Choreographed by: Vincent Dunoyer

    Performed by: Vincent Dunoyer, Sarah Ludi

    Music: Hubert Machnik, Velvet Unnderground

    Video: Michael Schlund, Reiner Wolff

    Programming this piece midway through the last week of a three week festival was not the best plan. Vincent Dunoyer has crafted an exquisite minimalist work but these days everyone I meet in the lobby before any of the shows looks tired or hung-over, or a little bit of both. Anything that isn't a real slap in the face can go by in a blur.

    That aside, Dunoyer's Princess Project begins with a film that is a short introduction. Poetic text details the concept, two people having the same dream. As the video ends Dunoyer sits with his back to the audience, feet together, knees flat on the floor. He watches the ghost like images of dancers move across the screen of the small television that is sitting on the ground, at the back of the stage close to the scrim. He rocks slowly until he stretches his legs and shifts from side to side moving himself around the space. He never makes eye contact with the audience in the small theatre, he barely raises his eyes from the floor, even when he stands up and slowly repeats some simple movement phrases. It's a brave move at the best of times to work against the audience by not drawing them in and engaging them, but here it may have been the kiss of death in terms of whether the weary audience cared about seeing the rest of the work.

    When "Act Two" comes up on the screen Dunoyer turns towards the audience, repeating much of the same movement from Act 1, but facing downstage. We see his filmed image. He mirrors the movement on film. Sometimes his image is repeated on film and he mirrors the mirror image of himself dancing.

    In Act Three, Dunoyer has left the stage, and the audience is seated in darkness listening to the Velvet Underground's I'm Set Free. People shift and cough, some, I'm sure, go to sleep. I like to listen to music in the dark and the last three extremely busy weeks of the festival make me appreciate just sitting and enjoying the song instead of having to watch someone move and figure out what the heck they're trying to say and how I'm going to explain it all in print. Maybe I've been doing too much yoga lately, but meditative moments don't seem as boring to me as they apparently do to some of the audience. And I've always been a fan of the Velvet Underground. That probably helped.

    When Dunoyer reappears on stage near the end of the song to begin duo/prelude, he brings Sarah Ludi with him. They stand in darkness until the song finishes. Dunoyer lies on the ground and Ludi walks a path around his body, stepping carefully and deliberately. He shifts, repeatedly changing her pathway. This continues on for quite awhile until Ludi finally lays herself down on Dunoyer and they begin a slow duet of each one shifting and the other moving in response. The conclusion was somewhat unclear, the audience wasn't sure when they should begin to clap, a sure sign that the ending could use a little reworking.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Dunoyer again, when I'm more alert and less hung-over (I'm joking of course, the show was at 5:30 in the afternoon, I hadn't even started drinking yet.)

    I'm Set Free (MP3 audio clip)
    The Velvet Underground
    (Lou Reed, 1969)

    I've been set free and I've been bound
    To the memories of yesterday's clouds
    I've been set free and I've been bound

    And now I'm set free
    I'm set free
    I'm set free to find a new illusion

    I've been blinded but
    Now I can see
    What in the world has happened to me
    The prince of stories who walk right by me

    And now I'm set free
    I'm set free
    I'm set free to find a new illusion

    I've been set free and I've been bound
    Let me tell you people
    what I found
    I saw my head laughing
    rolling on the ground

    And now I'm set free
    I'm set free
    I'm set free to find a new illusion

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    Daniel Larrieu [FRANCE]
    Salle Ludger-Duvernay, Monument-National

    Choreography and direction: Daniel Larrieu

    Performed by: Trisha Bauman, Fanny de Chaillé, Agnès Coutard, Guillaume Cuvilliez, Sylvie Drieu, Dery Fazio, Christophe Ives, Anne Laurent, Daniel Larrieu, Joel Luecht, Bettina Masson, Gabriela Montes, Maxime Rigobert, Roberto Vidal, Pascaline Verrier

    Masks: Mathias Robert

    Costumes and accessories: Christine Vollard

    Music: Tona la Negra, danzon music, gregorian chants, fanfares

    Daniel Larrieu's Cenizas (Ashes) was like going on a trip south of the border to a small town where everything seems dusty and out of date, as if you've gone back in time about thirty years. A place where everything happens at its own speed, which is infuriatingly slow. Your only choice is to be patient and wait for it to all unfold in its own time. So you decide you will try to make the best of things but it just gets worse and worse. But you've paid a lot of money to go on this trip and invested your time and energy so you think, "Well, I've just got to press on, it has to improve." But it doesn't. It's the worst vacation you've ever taken and each moment is a painful realization that you've made a terrible mistake in coming. The travel brochure of doctored photos and colourful text was a scam. By the time you arrive home you are just grateful you survived. When you tell you friends about it they almost can't believe it, because when you try to describe it, it doesn't seem possible. It sounds ludicrous, even to your ears. That just about covers Daniel Larrieu's Cenizas.

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    Rosas (Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker) [BELGIUM]
    I Said I
    Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts

    Choreography : Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

    Performed by : Iris Bouche, Marta Coronado, Alix Eynaudi, Fumiyo Ikeda, Martin Kilvady, Oliver Koch, Roberto Olivan de la Iglesia, Ursula Robb, Taka Shamoto, Rosalba Torres

    Music : DJ Grazzhoppa, Fabrizio Cassol & Aka Moon, l'Ensemble Ictus (François Deppe, Jean-Luc Plouvier, Jean-Luc Fafchamps, George van Dam, Alexandre Fostier)

    I Said I is a long show. Two and a half hours long. Not very much of that time is spent dancing, which is too bad, because that's the part of the show that I enjoyed the most.

    Much of the action on stage is what I call "tasking," i.e., the dancers perform the kind of activities you would do in everyday life. It never seems to serve any other purpose than to give the dancers something to do. Because if they weren't tasking, what would they do to fill up the time? Dance??? I know, I know, I've really got to get with the program of what's hip in contemporary dance.

    I watch Rosas' dancers break down the pallets on the stage and stand the pieces up against the back wall of the stripped down theatre. They stack and unstack colourful Tupperware and plastic buckets across the span of the downstage apron. They move chairs into a line across the middle of the stage from left to right, then they move the chairs into pairs, forming a line from the downstage center to upstage, then they move them back to the sides of the stage where they were originally. They stack bales of newspaper into a big heap in the middle of the space. Then they unpile them. You get the picture. Someone dances a short solo in the middle of the action for a few shining moments, running and sliding, rolling like quicksilver.

    The dancers recite Peter Handke's 1966 text, Selbstbezichtigung (auto-accusation) like a mantra. It's a relentless series of confessions. "I have lived." "I have moved." "I have failed to turn off faucets" "I called peace lazy." "I pushed on doors that said pull." "I pulled on doors that said push." As one performer finishes, another one starts. It's an incessant socio-political manifesto as performed by the Me Generation. There's some irony in that but mostly it just wears me out.

    Finally some prolonged dancing takes place. It's very good. The dancers are very talented. The movement is breathy and fresh with enough sharp notes to keep it from becoming too delicate. It's exactly why people paid close to fifty dollars to see the show. It's some of the best dancing I've seen at the festival. The musicians and the DJ are also impressive.

    Ah, but then it's back to the text and tasking again. And of course the dancers have to be naked at one point because introspection and self-revelation is de rigueur these days. There are some more dance sections that blow me away but they're never long enough and I feel like I've stepped into some kind of cult meeting, where if I want to see any dancing I have to suffer the rhetoric. Some refuse the role of martyr, I can hear the doors swishing shut as they leave the theatre. I never make any connections between the dancing, the text and the tasking. I do understand why I have to sit and listen to the small chamber group play Brahms piano trio No. 1 at the end, after the final round of Handke's text has been dispensed. It's not a contemporary dance piece unless you listen to music without dance at some point in the program. Or at least that's what I've learned in the past three weeks of the festival. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to leave the theatre feeling enlightened but I must confess that what I felt was more akin to exhaustion. I watched my fellow indoctrinates cheer and give a standing ovation, and hoped no one was serving kool-aid after the show.

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    Christine De Smedt [BELGIUM]
    9 x 9
    Usine C

    Creation : Alexandra Bachsetsis, Nuno Bizarro, Christine De Smedt, Mette Edvardsen, Eva Meyer-Keller, Ivana Muller, Tony Chong, Alain Francoeur, Marc Parent, Jean-Pierre Côté

    Performed by: Isabelle Aguilera, Caroline Agnot, Karyne Archambeault, Marie-Lou Berger, Caroline Bergeron, Nadia Bertrand, Gael Bescond, Liliane Boucher, Anne-Marie Boucher, Mariève Boucher, Marc-André Casavant, Katlin Clipsham, Lucie Couillard, Patrick Coulombe, Amélie Dallaire, Maiza Dubé, Marie-Claude Gagné, Aurélie Gandit, Emilie Godreuil, Myia Goodridge, Rochelle Goodridge, Kélina Gotman, Étienne Gour, Niess Govine, Mael Iger, Emily Jocobinson, Emilie King, Karine Leborgue, Séverine Lombardo, Elena Martoglio, Miguel Medina, Emilie Morin, Georgia Palomino, Norah Paré, Audrey Portal, Éloise Raif, Lenneke Rasschackt, Manu Roque, Bartazin Roquel, Ariane Roy Lefrançois, Estelle Savasta, Marie-Ève St-Hilaire, Isabelle Tétrault, Catherine Thibeault-Denis, Eve Tremblay, Éloize Trudel, Ariane Verdy, Lorca Vincent

    De Smedt's experimental 9 x 9 uses basic mathematic principles to move people around in space. In this case, close to sixty people. I chose to see this show on the closing night of the festival instead of the White Oak Project's PASTForward, a performance which explores the experimental works of the 1960's post-modernist choreographers of New York's Judson Church Group. This was partially due to scheduling, but also because I'm personally more interested in what's being tried out now in contemporary dance than watching a two and a half hour retrospective.

    Like some of Yvonne Rainer's early works with the Judson Church Group, De Smedt uses non-dancers, as well as dancers, in this piece. Bodies are scattered throughout the darkened room that the audience must enter in order to get into the theatre, curled up like amoebas. They twist and untwist. There are so many of them it's hard not to step on them. Some people move quickly to their seats, others stop to watch the performers. When the audience is finally seated the performers move downstairs on to a hydraulic lift that brings them slowly up to the stage. They begin a series of simple patterns that move them, one by one, through the space, endlessly criss-crossing each other's paths. When the music is interrupted by a blurping computer noise (that sounds like a 60's sci-fi computer), they all pause to scream, syllable by syllable, slogans like, "SIZE-MA-TTERS!" and "JUST-DO-IT!" and then they abruptly go back to making their patterns and shapes in the space.

    It's a deceptively simple piece with uncomplicated choreography that ends with a series of questions read over the PA, weeding the group down to one person, (everyone leave the stage who was: "not born in France," "does not play an instrument," etc., etc.). The beauty of it is that it demonstrates just how intoxicating watching a group of people moving can be and how dance can, and should be, enjoyed by everyone. It breaks down the barriers of size, age, gender and race. This piece has been performed in the past in various incarnations: by parents each holding an infant, people over the age of 80, etc. This time it was people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. In my opinion, the age group that needs to be turned on to what dance has to offer.

    Christine De Smedt's experimental choreography is unlike some of the post-modernist work of the Judson Church Group because it not only asks the audience to re-evaluate what dance is, it allows them to enjoy the experience at the same time. There are no endurance tests in this piece. It was one of the hits of this year's festival because it left people feeling good. Something to ponder in an art form that often seems so desperate to bring people into the theatre.

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    le grand labo wrap-up

    The closing night of le grand labo included Festival Director, Chantal Pontbriand's announcement of the "Prix du Public." First place was taken by Britain's Russel Maliphant and second place was awarded to Montréal's Compagnie Marie Chouinard, both deserving recipients. Afterwards, the DJ spun and the crowd danced into the night. The promised video link to New York didn't seem to be happening but nobody seemd to notice or care. Three weeks made for a long festival, it was a good opportunity to let loose.

    After seeing three weeks of dance, and virtually every show in the festival, people have been asking me were the highlights for me. I don't know that any particular show stood out for me this time as the total package. I enjoyed Compagnie Marie Chouinard but I had seen both of the pieces a couple of years ago so they didn't have the same impact as they did upon first viewing them. Jérôme Bel, O Rumo do Fumo (Vera Mantero), Christine De Smedt and Thomas Lehman provided amusing dance-theatre explorations. O Vertigo (Ginette Laurin) and Rosas choreography swept me away. The narratives in both works, not so much.

    The concept of providing "an experimental lab" for three weeks of viewing was challenging at times as an an audience member. And I am still bewildered that Daniel Larrieu's piece was even programmed in the festival. His was one of the many endurance tests that I survived over the past three weeks. I realize I should be grateful that it was one of the few pieces that did not require me to view anyone's gentialia, although in this case, that may have been preferrable to what was on stage.

    Overall, I came away from le grand labo pleased that Chantal Pontbriand and the FIND team chose to program such diverse contemporary dance works that demonstrated, for the most part, evolution in the art form. Congratulations to everyone who participated in making the festival happen, I'm looking forward to 2003. À la prochaine!


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    Edited by Marie.

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