Je by Dominique Porte at the Monument National


Back at the beginning of the month I was fortunate enough to get to see Je by Dominique Porte at the Monument National. Touted as a solo autobiographical dance, there must’ve been something in the water back at the time everyone was applying for grants because in January Jose Navas, also did a solo autobiographical dance.

As long as I’m musing about funding sources, one thing I probably should get off my chest. I was interviewing Paula De Vasconcelos recently (more on the interview in another article, later) when she mentioned one possible reason for all the solo dance performances with no sets to speak of. Funding being stretched. While I am all for government funding of the arts, and dance in specific, I’m not so certain that funding a large number of bare bones projects is the way to do it. But I digress.

There was a fair bit of hype surrounding the show before it even started. Articles in Voir, La Presse, The Gazette, and Le Devoir among others. After the show, I could only find two reviews, in Dfdanse, and Le Devoir. I’m not sure what to make of that. But I can’t help but thinking that it might be better if there were more reviews and less previews. But I’m not about to start telling anyone else what they should write about.

The show itself takes place on a relatively bare stage. On the left, there are some large piles of paper. On the right some venetian blinds that quickly become a video screen, a smaller pile of paper and some electronic gadget set up, that quickly proves itself to be a video camera that projects live images on to the blinds.

The whole thing starts very casually when everyone in the audience realizes that Ms. Porte is on stage. No dimming of the house lights, no mention of turning off cell phones, nothing like that. It actually is so casual that it even appeared that Ms. Porte nodded at people she knew as a way of saying “hi” from the stage. Then she starts writing and it gets projected on the screen.

This is where I wish I knew more about the brain and cognition. Somehow, no matter how hard I try the words stay in my memory much longer and stronger than any of the movements. Unfortunately I don’t know if this is due to how my brain is wired. Nor do I know if everyone’s brain is wired the same was as mine. And finally it might not even be due to how my brain works. But I’m not about to start doing research on how the brain works at this time.

JE de Système D / Dominique Porte photo by Sandra Lynn Bélanger
JE de Système D / Dominique Porte photo by Sandra Lynn Bélanger

Personally, I’m inclined to think that it is me and my brain. If I think back to other memories of movements, such as baseball games from my youth or parties or other events like that, I am much more likely to remember a written description than to actually have some sort of image burned in my memory. Then again, I could be wrong.

But enough of this dilly-dallying around the subject at hand. I probably should get around to trying to write about what I saw. From the title (translated as I for those that are not up to snuff on their French) through all the preview articles, everyone was pretty much in consensus that this was a performance not only by, but very much about Ms. Porte as well.

Obviously, I’m not going to argue that it wasn’t, because I’m not really in a position to. But without knowing an awful lot more about Ms. Porte’s life it’s extremely difficult to identify the salient points. It’s kind of like trying to find a narrative in the paintings of Paul-Emile Borduas.

I‘m fairly certain that she copped some of her own choreography from pieces that she had previously made – I think within the context of dance that’s 100% alright – it’s just that since I am not as familiar with her work as I should be and that my brain prefers to remember text over images, I’m at a slight disadvantage in being able to identify them.

I also wish that there had been some sort of chronology of her life provided in the program (as per usual, there was no press kit). If you haven’t realized by now, I was trying really hard to impose some sort of plot on the piece and came up woefully short. A month later, I’m still trying to stretch it into some sort of linear narrative, a full month after seeing it (and still having the same difficulties) ‘cuz that’s what I like, darnit!

JE de Système D / Dominique Porte picture by Sandra Lynn Bélanger
JE de Système D / Dominique Porte picture by Sandra Lynn Bélanger

So what is there beyond plot and narrative? Well, by my count there were 11 different sections. All of them were danced particularly well. While I obviously can’t recognize a plot, I can recognize good dancing. I just wish I knew the vocabulary better so that I could better describe why and how Ms. Porte danced so well.

But let me give it a shot. Somewhere in the middle (according to my notes, it was the fifth section, the one that starts with her writing “revenir a un page blanche,” literally “return to a blank page” but more likely just a more poetic way of stating that she was starting over) in between the point where she falls down on her side and when she ends up with her hands and feet on the ground and her butt in the air, I wrote in my notes “nice sequence.” On the video above, I think it is the part around 2:40 or so with the solo piano that sounds like George Winston.

OK I know, I need some more practice.

So I dunno, despite Je not having an easily recognizable narrative. Despite my not knowing a whole heck of a lot about Ms. Porte’s history. Despite my inability to write clearly about dance (in a pathetic attempt at some sort of excuse, it was dark and I was probably riveted) I still kind of think that it was a pretty kick-ass performance. I probably could foam on uselessly for another 500 words or so, but I figure it probably would be best to wrap it up here, and see if I can’t score another interview with Ms. Porte.