Color me impressed. Normally there is a dearth of reviews of Montreal dance performances. Sometimes, Le Devoir deigns to publish a review, and occasionally there is something else on a website someplace. For Merry Age by Ghislaine Doté and Virtuo Danse I count seven! Stéphanie Brody in La Presse, Camille Lepage-Mandeville on pieuvre.ca, Ashley Ornawka on Le Médium Saignant, Justine Bleau on Dfdanse, Frédérique Doyon in Le Devoir, Nathalie Katinakis on Musicalavenue.fr and Kat Sark on Suites Culturelles.
Unfortunately, most of them are not terribly positive. (I hope that Ms. Dote has a very thick skin, or chooses not to read them.)
Malheureusement, tout ce qui rendrait Merry Age aussi jouissif se dissout trop rapidement et l’on assiste, navrée, à un sextet qui cherche son fond et sa forme..
[Sadly, everything that makes Merry Age so joyous, sadly dissolves rapidly right before our eyes into a sextet that seeks substance and form.]
L’œuvre de Doté est un bon divertissement. Il est simplement dommage qu’un concept si prometteur n’ait pas été plus développé.
[Doté’s work is entertaining. But it is too bad that such a promising concept isn’t better developed.]
Le spectacle, dans son ensemble, ne présente pas de réel approfondissement de l’idée ni de nouvelles avenues exploitées concernant l’union de deux êtres à travers la danse.
[The show, as a whole, has no real depth of thought nor does it explore any new opportunities for the union of two beings through dance.]
Mais cette candeur a aussi ses défauts: les faux rebondissements (scènes mal arrimées), un récit trop mince, des mélodies un peu simplettes.
[But this candor also has its faults: twists and turns that don’t work (scenes that aren’t anchored) a thin plot and simplistic melodies.]
After reading those, I almost wanted to write something so over-the-top positive that it could make all those meanies go away. But I quickly remembered that I wasn’t Ms. Doté’s mother, and it really wouldn’t be appropriate to try and protect her from perceived bullies. It’s something automatic in me, not only to be contrarian, but also to want to help the underdog.
Let’s back up a bit, Merry Age was performed by Jenny Brizard, Fernanda Leal, Xavier Malo, Mohamed N’Diaye, Francois Richard and Émilie Tremblay at the Agora de la Danse back in the middle of February. (You see! I am catching up!) Some sort of hybrid type of performance that had bits of musical theater, modern dance and lots of other stuff (I went looking for some examples of dance from the Côte d’Ivoire, but only found this and there really wasn’t an awful lot of that in Merry Age). As per normal, I went in completely blind. I hadn’t read any of the press kit (yes, there was a press kit) refused to read the program, and politely asked my companion not to tell me anything in advance.
So when it started up like some sort of musical, I was very surprised. While I quite like musicals, specifically MGM musicals from the 30s, 40s and 50s with Gene Kelly and/or Fred Astaire (but in a pinch just about any musical will do) I was completely and totally unprepared to see a musical at L’Agora de la Danse. After a bit, it reverted back to more standard contemporary dance fare, every now and again launching into song.
I also had become very comfortable with the concept of no plot, and here was a performance that clearly had plot. Most of the time, kind of like the song (for the most part only one song was used) plot wandered in and out of the show. But since I wasn’t expecting it, I didn’t get too attached to it.
This might have been due in part, to the fact that while it was pretty obvious that the show was about marriage (Ms. Doté even announced it at the beginning) for the first part it didn’t strike me that any of the couples were fixed. Each woman danced with all of the guys and vice-versa, so it never occurred to me to take it that literally. Once that was out of the way, it became very easy to watch.
As I’ve come to expect these days, the set was minimal. There was some kind of podium in the back that held a rack of clothes for the dancers to put on, there was a chair, then there were more chairs and a table and that was about it. You can get some sense of the set and the piece itself here.
It also seemed to me to be one of those pieces that could only be made here in Quebec, as it incorporated bilingual text. What I really got a kick out of besides the bilingualism, was the biracial nature of the couples. Although now that I am able to reflect a little bit more on it, there was one bit in Spanish as well, so it in fact was trilingual, and Ms. Doté could have pushed the envelope slightly by having some non-heterosexual couples as well. But those are more about my agenda than her piece. I realize now that it also could have been made in many other places besides Montreal.
The dancing itself was quite good. Again, my memory is sketchy at best, but I have a vague feeling in the pit of my stomach that the parts where all six dancers were dancing were slightly better than when there were obvious duets. There were a couple of “really nice’s” in my notes. One in particular when they did a round in movement instead of in song, and another after they spin around the table.
So what else? Well, I think the title itself isn’t too hot. A bad play on words (not even a pun) on the word marriage. I think judging from my reaction in comparison to the ones quoted above, that perhaps for the restaging, to change the name, and perhaps say that it is about fish, or mitochondria or something other than weddings and human interactions. The people who pay attention to the stuff in the program and the press kits won’t quite have such large expectations and the reaction probably will be a lot more positive. (And to be fair, there were three positive reviews; one, two and three. It’s just that they weren’t terribly well written, and if I had led with them, I’m not certain what I would have been able to write).