Dances For A Small Stage - Whimsy, Gravitas, Humour, DelightThursday, June 17, 2010
In past performances of Dances for a Small Stage (Artistic Producer Julie-anne Saroyan, right) I always expected to be surprised. But this surprise was often one of a contrast between sublime dance performances and some that that were so terrible (and which had nothing to do with dance) that I would cringe and wish the act go away. I accepted with Greek stoicism flamenco dance performances and hip-hop (this is before I discovered Shay Kuebler!). I just knew that Dances for A Small Stage would always surprise in a sort of uneven manner.
The 22nd version of Dances for a Small Stage (with exclusive participation of Ballet BC dancers) which I saw last night (Wednesday) surprised but never disappointed me. As in the Season Finale of the Arts Umbrella Senior and Apprentice Dance Company at the Playhouse a few weeks back the first performance was by Montreal-based Giaconda Barbuto, below. She is a compact and extremely cute dark and short-haired pixie who was walking around like a nervous shark last night before the performance.
What could she possibly have worried about? Her piece, Clique included every member (14 of them) of Ballet BC on the extremely small stage all at one time. Clique was like a pleasant (no knifings) beach/street gang of teenagers showing off their skills. The music was perfect and the performance of every Ballet BC dancer was superb although Molnar may have to cut Donald Sales’ intake of testosterones. The piece had shades of West Side Story and the cheerleader's ending made me smile.
From Clique every subsequent performance had some sort of quirky and delightful humor. Cori Caulfield’s powdered wig diva in Meringue a l’état sauvage and Edmond Kilpatrick’s three part series called Boy meets Girl –Boy loses Girl- Boy Gets Girl Back) was like a superb Moët et Chandon that cleared the palate for the only piece with lots of gravitas, Laurie Stallings’ Zak. Her piece with dancers Alyson Fretz, Connor Gnam, Delphine Leroux and Peter Smida showcased Stallings’ odd look at the world. Since this was my first experience at a Stalling (below, right) piece I felt like I was listening to Bartok for the first time.
It was difficult but I could not stop looking. I appreciated the musical silence (for most of the piece) which gave me the change of being able to listen to the dancers breathe and gasp for air. This is a dance work that I will hopefully see again and perhaps I will begin to understand. Meanwhile it will serve as a showcase for the rapidly dazzling performances of Alyson Fretz.
If Emily Molnar is able to secure funds to keep her company going this year she should establish a special fund to declare Donald Sales a Vancouver National Monument. The Brazilians attempted this ploy to try to keep Edson Arantes do Nascimento from bolting to the better paying European Football League. Sales provides Ballet BC with whimsical choreography and manly performances. It will not be long before our city’s standup comics will be imitating the Sales shifting shoulder swagger. On the other hand Sales himself, if we are to correctly judge his hilarious Oops Sorry LOL Sh^t could be a standup comic, too. Connor Gnam was perfect as the nervous teen lothario and Makaila Wallace proved that prima ballerinas can picnic, too!
Maggie Forgeron in Moon on White Crow, with her long hair (can anybody with short hair ever do a Margie Gillis, left with Emily Molnar, piece?) and swaying arms moved with grace in an extremely small area of stage territory.
Cherice Barton’s Temptation, in the heels of her piece ’59 at the Playhouse a few weeks back in which she brought the music of the 50s and mated it with the Arts Umbrella Senior Dance Company’s, gave us little gravitas but amply compensated with humorous but steamy sexual performances. The costumes by Kate Burrows, below, were such that I could not take my eyes off Marianne Grobbelaar as the prostitute in red with that black garter. In fact for most of the evening I came to the conclusion that one of the few dancers that can perhaps match Donald Sales in oozing sex is Grobbelaar.
But of all the pieces (and all satisfied me in some way) the one that I found to be the most whimsical and magical was Farley Johansson’s pocket full of hoyle. Alexis Fletcher (Arty you gave us Connor Gnam, Shannon Ferguson, Alyson Fretz, Alex Parrett, Acacia Schachte, Amber Funk Barton and the soon to be star Alex Burton, what gives with Arts Umbrella?) and Gilbert Small pulled cards from pockets here and there and kept pulling them until I lost count. While most know that Edmond Hoyle established many of the rules of card-playing I saw this entertaining but complex piece as a salute to the other Hoyle, the astronomer and science fiction author Fred Hoyle who coined the term “big bang”. Johansson’s piece gave me the most bangs for my 20 bucks.
Congratulations to Julie-Anne Saroyan, Emily Molnar (and her dancers) and finally Kate, relax. I loved your costumes.
Dances for a Small Stage continues today and tomorrow.