Since my last attempt at a poetic review for a dance performance was a trainwreck (if you haven’t read Ken Monteith‘s comment, I urge you to drop everything right now, and do so, and while you’re at it you should read his blog as well.) I figured I can revert back to something a little easier this time…
I’m not certain I’m any closer to understanding Les Angèles ces derniers bleus (loosely translated to The Angels’ Latest Blues) but it somehow makes me smile and think that everything is linked. I went in thinking it was going to be some sort of dance performance. I came out realizing it was something much more than that. Basically, a collection of things “Angel.” With a heavy emphasis on a certain American television show from the 1970s.
I wasn’t keeping track of how many angel references they actually used, but the ones that I did catch were Bobby Helms‘ (the voice behind Jingle Bell Rock) You are My Precious Angel.
Doreen Virtue’s Angel Therapy [no video, click on the link to hear her radio show] and most obviously (although, believe it or not, it took me about 20 minutes into the performance to realize it) Charlie’s Angels
I’m not much into angels, but some that they missed were AngeNeige, the angel store run by my friend Franceen, up the street from La Chapelle (the theater where they performed it). The Blue Angels, the United States’ Navy’s flying aerobatic team. And The Blue Angel, the Marlene Dietrich film, directed by Josef von Sternberg.
I’m certain I missed scads upon scads. Both in the performance and not in the performance. Feel free to let me know what I’ve missed (and bonus points for doing it in rhyme). But you get the idea.
Initially and for a good half to three-quarters of the performance I was trying really really hard to figure out (or perhaps impose) a plot on it. I’m not entirely certain why. Possibly due to some outdated belief that if there are characters, there must be some sort of narrative. Kind of like still arguing for the Ptolemaic system, old habits die hard. It was only when I realized that there wasn’t any real plot, that I was able to realize that it was a pretty gosh darn good performance.
To get the easy stuff out of the way first, it was a minimalist set. Two table lamps (one with what looked like goldfish embedded in the base), three manequin heads, a TV and a phone. There might have been some other things as well, but the action started and I got distracted while I was writing things down, so I don’t know if my list is a complete or incomplete inventory.
Pierre-Marc Ouellette came on stage first in a red suit and started doing some kind of disco dancing that veered towards Elvis
then towards a more freer hippy style, before going all YMCA, but spelling A-N-G-E-L-E-S instead.
The three other members of the C’est Juste Lundi collective come on stage, Hinda Essadiqi, Karina Champoux and Emmanuelle Bourassa Beaudoin. They shake, they emote and then they start doing some rather complicated and fast moves. Up and down, kind of dog-like but I was very impressed with how tight they were, Anne Thériault their rehearsal director did a mighty fine job. Their timing was impeccable and incredible.
They do some more emoting, use some finger guns, run around and then bring out a TV which shows an edited version of the opening sequence from Charlie’s Angels (and at the same time allows everyone to catch their breath and change costume). Then M. Oulette and Ms. Champoux do a duet that involves some blue clothes. Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin comes on stage and uses one of the mannequin heads as some sort of appendage to her body. Ms. Essadiqi then gets a solo that has something to do with an address book and a pen, and then Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin brings a cassette player out and sticks her head above a fan so her hair can billow. Everyone starts go-go dancing and finally Ms. Champoux starts playing a ukelele and whistling while the others are doing bird calls and the lights fades.
You see? No real plot to speak of. But to repeat myself that is not a bad thing.
While I generally prefer not to single out specific dancers, Ms. Essadiqi definitely got the lion’s share of my notes and attention. In retrospect I found it a tad strange, because as an adolescent I definitely preferred Sabrina Duncan and Jill Munroe to Kelly Garrett. And Ms. Essadiqi was playing the Jaclyn Smith character.
I should also make mention of Denis Lemieux who helped with the costumes (I’m not sure exactly how or what he did to help, but that’s what it says in the program) and the costumes were pretty darn good as well.
In the program and the press kit and the website, they emphasize the word ludique, which because I’m a bloke with a bad vocabulary, thought had some connection to being a Luddite, and not the notion of playing. After looking it up in numerous dictionaries (just to be certain) it made perfect sense.
I’ve said this before (and I’ll probably repeat myself again) but I absolutely love the fact that Montreal, and by extension Quebec, is a place where artists are allowed to play and experiment with form and content. Les Angèles ces derniers bleus effectively is just that. But unlike an awful lot of other performances I have seen, it also manages to be entertaining for the audience (or at least this audience member) at the same time. It bodes well for future projects by the C’est Juste Lundi folk.
Yes, there are things that didn’t quite work, or could have worked better – but unless you’re Robert Lepage or Marie Chouinard you’re never going to get absolutely everything right all the time. And that’s my point exactly. Having the ability to try out things in a trusting and comfortable environment is a good thing.
I was somewhat at odds over, or maybe just confused by, the choice of angels as the overriding theme. I’ve never been religious, and have actually been accused of being an anti-spritualist (whatever that is). I’m certain if I sat down with Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin (who gets credit as the artistic director of C’est Juste Lundi) she would be able to explain in plain language how and why angels were chosen. But it was not immediately self-evident. Nor did it make itself known in the 72 hours following.
Playfulness is not normally something that is immediately associated with a strong sense of spirituality, although there are some paintings I can think of where the cherubim aren’t exactly moping around. Towards the end with the ukelele and the bird sounds, someone probably could point out some sense of spirituality, but it still would be a stretch.
However, since Les Angèles ces derniers bleus is definitely absurdist (in the best sense of the word) choosing to use angels as the main characters could be considered an absolutely brilliant choice just because of its oppositional quality. The performance is not something that is easily digested and sometimes in situations like that it’s best just to swallow it whole without chewing.
I wouldn’t (ok, maybe I would) try to figure out where Les Angèles ces derniers bleus and C’est Juste Lundi fit in in the grand scheme of things performance in Quebec. But they (and it) definitely belong. I haven’t looked all that hard, but I didn’t see them on the cover of Voir, nor did I hear anything about them on Radio-Canada, which is kind of a pity, because many other less deserving projects have gotten both.
And then finally (‘cuz I definitely have rambled on for far too long) after some reflection; Les Angèles ces derniers bleus by the Collectif C’est Juste Lundi, is trying to incarnate some kind of mythical childhood. None of the performers is old enough to have even been thought of by their parents when Charlie’s Angel’s first aired, and as it was most definitely an American (as opposed to Quebecois) television show, they all are starting out with two strikes against them. So the entire production must be based on some sort of concept that never existed in anything except their minds. And I like that.