Last Friday I finally got around to seeing Fragments – Volume 1 choreographed by Sylvain Emard and danced by Monique Miller, Laurence Ramsay, Manuel Roque and Catherine Viau. I’m kind of glad I did, not because the dance was mind blowingly phenomenal (it wasn’t, although there were parts that kicked-ass) but because it kind of gave me some insight (or what I think is some sort of insight) into the inner workings of quote; high Quebecois Culture, unquote.
But first things first, the dances. In short, it’s fragmented, as you might suspect. If you don’t know the dancers personally, you gotta take the press release at face value (always a dangerous proposition) that it was inspired by the personalities and concerns of the performers. Catherine Viau one of the dancers (and to quote from my notes: “she is very very good”) kept some of her own notes as to how things went during practices (one, two, three and four) with nary a word about how it connects to her personally, which is not to say that it doesn’t, ‘cuz I don’t know her at all, just traded emails a couple of years ago, but you figure… although now that I’m going down this tangent, it also could be that I don’t have the vocabulary or knowledge to recognize certain movements that are based on emotions or thoughts, and what I call a “cheerleading kind of move” or “marching band” is in fact coming directly from some history that I am completely unaware of. Continuing to quote from my notes “I could watch her all night.” But I digress.
Ms. Viau’s piece was the second of the night, called Émoi, émoi, which according to my handy-dandy French/English dictionary could mean “emotion, emotion” or “stir, stir” or “commotion, commotion” or “agitation, agitation” or “flutter, flutter.” (Obviously, I’m not as bilingual as I thought) Personally, I’d go for stir x2 or flutter x2, but mostly because of the way the words can be repeated (it isn’t real common to write “agitation, agitation”) than for anything specific to the dance that she did. It began with her waving or possibly fanning herself and ended with some high stepping and spinning all to some sort of mechanical / industrial kind of soundtrack by Michel F. Côté.
And no matter how hard I try I can’t figure out any connection between Ms. Viau and the movements she made other than she and the moves she makes really really good.
It got off on the wrong foot. The very first thing that we saw was this blinding strobe light. Which is all fine and dandy, if you’re 18 years-old and at some discotheque. But isn’t so hot if you’re middle-aged and sitting with someone who has epilepsy. Once the strobe stops you can see Manuel Roque sitting on a chair, upsidedown. Kind of like a you’d imagine a how it would look if you were choreographing a car crash. As all the car crashes I have been in made time seem to move incredibly slow, it only makes sense that Mr. Roque also moves in slow motion. How this car wreck relates to “his garden” I have no clue, but the piece is called “dans mon jardin…” although as far as I know it has nothing to do with the song by Manu Chao.
He returns to a normal speed with a bunch of jumping around and shaking. And then my notes mention that he has swallows and butterflies in his garden, but I have no recollection as to why I suddenly decided to note down the wildlife. Judging from the way it was written and its placement on the page, I would have guessed that it was some sort of lyric, but last I heard Michel F. Côté only writes instrumental music. So I am back at square one. Obviously I need to take much better notes next time.
Anyhows, after the jumping and the shaking, Mr. Roque returns to the chair, upsidedown, and then the piece ends.
The third piece is the one that’s been getting the most notice, mostly because M. Émard chose to use a septuagenarian non-dancer as a dancer. Monique Miller is an actress (now a dancer) who has been performing since the early 1950s.
She wore a kick-ass knit pant suit that had almost looked like a skirt (I think the technical term is elephant leg pants, but I am not certain, I have even less of a vocabulary in fashion than I do in dance) although from where I was sitting it also looked liked she was covered in Saran Wrap underneath the pant suit. Also from where I was sitting I never would have guessed that she was pushing 80 years-old. Forty, maybe fifty, just before I changed the prescription on my glasses, but never 78.
There was some sort of wind-chimey, dangly things suspended from the ceiling that was extremely annoying because of the reflections of the spotlights back into the audience that made it extrmely difficult to concentrate on what Mme. Miller was doing. What she was doing looked an awful lot like emoting and mime. Now, I’m not going to go and complain because a septuagenarian actress can’t dance. But I will question the necessity of putting a non-dance performance in the middle of a dance performance.
It’d be kind of like if I started singing right here, right now
Confusing, right? And then right in the middle of Mme. Miller’s performance someone starts plainchanting a personal ad, not exactly the New York Review of Books quality, but easily worthy of Craigslist. Initially this confused me, as Michel F. Côté only writes instrumental music. But then with a little bit of research, I discovered that M. Émard and M. Côté chose to insert some sort of excerpt from eL/Aficionado a very obscure opera by Robert Ashley. And no, I’d never heard of it either, prior to this. And I would hate to think that it was used as part of the soundtrack because Mme. Miller was looking for a date (remember way back at the top, how M. Émard said that the dances were inspired by the personalities and concerns of the performers… Things that make you go hmmmm.
The last piece, Bicéphale which was the duet of the evening, danced by Laurence Ramsay and Manuel Roque is about as cliched as it’s name. It starts off slow in front of a seam of light, again making it difficult to see. Their movements become quicker and seemed to me to be slightly like something Bob Fosse would have done.
Unfortunately the music by Jan Jelinek had way too much throbbing, buzzing and skreetching for my tastes. And even more unfortunately, it wasn’t anything like what Bob Fosse would have done.
I haven’t seen the other “latest and greatest” creation by M. Émard, The Continental line-dancing thing (it comes in various shapes, sizes and flavors). But, if it does come back this summer, I think I’m going to have to make a point to see it, just because it strikes me as being the complete opposite of Fragments – Volume 1. Either that or wait for Fragments – Volume 2 and see if things then fit together.