Tag Archives: Jane Mappin

Out of White by Jane Mappin and two dances by Francoise Sullivan


Back on Thursday I went to see Out of White by Jane Mappin and Je Parle and À tout prendre by Francoise Sullivan as part of the Quartiers Danses festival at the McCord Museum. As you might have suspected, the crowds was sparse.

I presume that the idea of having a dance in a museum was part of the dance in unusual places shtick. Unfortunately outside of the museum and in the museum lobby, atrium and auditorium aren’t all that unusual. It would have been nice to see some of the dances take place in some of the galleries, now that would have been unusual. But obviously there were some logistical challenges that were insurmountable, pity.

The short synopsis of the evening. Out of White is an ensemble piece that started outside the museum with a dozen dancers improvising slow movements, in a parade. Kind of like a warm up as they lead the viewers into the museum. There’s a short pause and then it starts up again. This time choreographed in (if I remember correctly) three basic parts. One is the group moving and marching around the space (in this case the very small atrium at the McCord museum) then, Jane Mappin shows up and dances a solo, then Francine Liboiron comes on a saves the day. Then there’s a whole second part that also is saved by Ms. Liboiron.

Je Parle is a short piece where Ginette Boutin spins around in a canvas smock while reciting something. À tout prendre is Daniel Soulières and Ms. Boutin traipsing around picking up pieces of junk and clipping them onto each others’ overcoats while Rober Racine bangs on a variety of metal objects. Overall, it was a successful evening’s worth of performance. But if that was all you wanted to hear about it, it is unlikely you would be reading this…

According to the program notes, Ms. Mappin was inspired by some paintings by William Perehudoff (no, I have no idea how to pronounce it either) and somehow wanted to make something where the dancers and the audience worked together to make some sort of living gallery.

La représentation se dessine comme un galerie vivante dans laquelle les spectateurs s’intègrent pleinement à l’expérience visuelle de la mise en scène.

Ummm. It didn’t work out that way at all. and it wasn’t only because the McCord Museum is a history museum and not an art museum.

William Perehudoff Mural
William Perehudoff Mural

First off, I had some time to kill so I swung by early to pick up my tickets, and was told that the performance started outside around 7:45 pm. I found it odd, that all the information about the performance stated that things started at 8:00 pm. I didn’t quite understand why someone would start a performance early (I don’t like it when things start late, but in advance just doesn’t make sense to me).

The YouTube playlist of all eight short videos of the Intro to Out of the White by Jane Mappin.

Then when I arrived, Deborah VanSlet was videotaping things, there also were about three other professional looking photographers. All of which combined to make for a definite barrier between performers, documenters and audience. Then as the performers’ led the audience parade-like into the museum there was no interaction between any groups. Finally, when the performance restarted in the atrium, the audience was instructed to take seats in the space as if they were in a regular theatre.

As for the performance itself; it was a bunch of dance students moving in space, along with a man (Barry Meyer) who looked to be about twice the age of the other dancers. I never could quite figure out why he was there. Although now in retrospect, it might have been to highlight the difference between dance students and people who have been dancing for their entire life.

After a bit, Jane Mappin (or a person who I assume was Jane Mappin) took the stage and moved around as well. Nothing terrible spectacular, but nothing too horrible either. The rest of the dancers came back on the stage and then Francine Liboiron shows up and really makes it obvious how much experience matters in dance. At the end there was polite applause and at was over.

Things quickly got better after that. Ginette Boutin came on stage in her smock and started reciting and spinning. I became pretty transfixed by Je Parle mostly due to watching the hem of her smock as it rippled in the air. I’m not certain if this was an intended effect or something unintentional. But either way it was riveting. I’m certain that a deeper understanding of the piece could be had by knowing what was said (especially since it’s called “I speak.”) But that’s obviously going to have to wait for another time.

We were then asked to wait a little before entering the auditorium for À tout prendre (I’m not certain logistics are a Quartiers Danses specialty). After about five minutes we were allowed in and discovered that the stage was strewn with a bunch of garbage. I don’t think that there is any real story to À tout prendre, but it’s fun enough and silly enough and short enough that watching it is not a bore. Again, according to the program notes, it’s supposed to be some sort of reflection on “our times and our society” (Une réflexion encore très actuelle sur notre temps et notre société.) I also found it strange that it used the same title as an award winning film Claude Jutra. Not having seen the film (which someone on wikipedia considers the first modern Quebecois film) I have no idea if there is any connection or if it was purely happenstance. But the upshot of all of this being, I think I’m going to have to go and see more dances by Francoise Sullivan.

And then the tour-de-force. The beginning of part 2 of Out of White. It was the same as what I had seen on Monday and written that it was “Francine Liboiron lying on her back making her legs act like hand puppets.” Which is completely and utterly, 100% wrong. On Monday, the theatre seats weren’t raked, and there were a bunch of heads obscuring Ms. Liboiron’s body. So all I could see was a little bit of her calfs, and her feet. Which from that perspective did look like hand puppets. But that was the wrong perspective to be seeing it from.

At the McCord, the seats are raked (and there weren’t too many people, either) so it was quite easy to a) see all of Ms. Liboiron and to see her from a very good perspective. Instead of moving her legs like hand puppets, imagine some sort of hybrid combination of a swan’s neck, really thick syrup being poured and something else that has those similar liquid, yet gracefully properties, like the veil on The Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino in the Cappella Sansevero.

Basically she moves her legs in an incredibly fluid and graceful manner while lying on her back with her legs extended 90 degrees into the air (picture her body in an “L” shape). Every now and again she would raise her arms, and get all four appendages moving like each one was a separate dancer while still moving in unison (I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time and as a consequence was left completely slack-jawed at what Ms. Liboiron was able to do). Honest to god, it was drop-dead gorgeous.

Beyond that, there was some video and I’m fairly certain that there was some music as well, but I can’t remember it for the life of me, so it obviously wasn’t that memorable. However, I will for a very long time remember Ms. Liboiron movements.

Opening Night at Quartiers Danses


Back on Monday (who schedules dance performances on a Monday?!?) I got to see the opening night festivities for Quartiers Danses. Now as an aside the current scuttlebutt is that dance is the poor bastard child of the arts and gets absolutely no respect, no press and no one cares about it. Well I think that Quartiers Danses is the poor bastard child of dance festivals.

This was the first time in my life that I had seen an opening night where the theatre wasn’t even half full. and they had even taken up a bunch of space with tables replacing chairs, so to begin with there weren’t an awful lot of seats to fill.

Anyhows, since it is quite likely that you’ve never heard of it, Quartiers Danses is a festival that has its mandate to bring dance to the people. Instead of Mohammed going to the mountain, the mountain comes to Mohammed. Unfortunately given the crowd, it was more like a hill or a mound than a mountain.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying “pity.” Because for the most part it was quite good. There were four short pieces performed; L’Absense by Marie Brassard, danced by Sarah Williams. Sente by Lucie Grégoire. Dédale by Françoise Sullivan, danced by Ginette Boutin. And an excerpt from Out of White by Jane Mappin, danced by Francine Liboiron.

I gotta hand it to whomever programed the evening (I presume it was Rafik Hubert Sabbagh) they kind of knew what they were doing. For the first time in my life I thought that the evenings programming went as well together as a well done set by a DJ or a well curated exhibit at a museum. You know the sensation you get when you suddenly sit up and say “Hey! Those things not only only go well together, but they compliment each other and actually make more sense together than apart”? Kind of like that.

I hear y’all asking “why?” (Or my preferred question: “How come?”) Well, they are all variations on the same idea. Basically one woman swaying in space with a focus (more or less) on one part of the body. In Sente it’s the hips, Dédale the arms, and in the excerpt from Out of White it’s the legs.

There were also a couple of cool moments in L’Absense due to the backdrop sort of looking vaguely floor-like and Sarah Williams’ ability to contort herself so despite lying on the floor, it appears as if the audience is hanging from the ceiling – just like one of those photographs by Alain Paiement.

It all really kicked in with Dédale (Daedalus for the people in the house who only read one language, yes that Daedalus). In my lifetime I must’ve seen a 63 year-old dance, but for the life of me I can’t remember one. And I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen a 63 year-old dance done in the presence of its creator. Because yes, Françoise Sullivan was in the house (and yes, I was too chicken to go up and talk to her).

The backstory: Françoise Sullivan first performed Dédale on April 3, 1948, the same day that Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan and the very same day that Arlette Cousture was born. For reasons that I won’t go into here (you can find the details elsewhere) it’s a fairly significant piece of of work within the context of Quebecois culture.

I don’t know if it has ever been performed since then (my guess would be yes) but either way, it’s still pretty gosh darn cool to see a dance that was made way back then. For the most part dance eats its young and not an awful lot of it survives to adolescence, let alone old age.

Nine minutes long, it starts with Ms. Boutin tapping on her hip and then expanding on that movement ever so slightly over time until she is rolling about on stage. Even if you don’t know the story of Daedalus it works. And as a connecting piece between Sente and Out of White it works even better.

Sente is basically a woman swaying to some fado, while a woman recites something over it (apologies, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the monologue. I’m certain it was important and would have aided me greatly in gaining a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the performance, but I was kind of getting a kick out of watching Lucie Grégoire move. Sometimes a superficial and simplistic appreciation is all that is needed).

And then in the excerpt from Out of White you get Francine Liboiron lying on her back making her legs act like hand puppets. It’ll be interesting to see how that little bit fits into the larger piece which I am going to see on Thursday, I think.

None of the dances have any elaborate costumes or fancy lighting. The soundtracks (when there were any) were either completely ignorable, as was the case with Sente or completely forgettable, as was the case with the others. So basically what you got was dance. Movement in a fairly controlled and focused state. And when it’s done well, it definitely deserves to have more than a half empty house watching.

One suggestion that I would make to the fine folk who organize the Quartiers Danses, is to switch the time of year when they present it. Trying to compete with all the other season opening events is not working. I’ve followed it now for about three years, and each year (this one included) I’ve always thought “how can I squeeze it in?” Most other dance organizations kick in with big-budget press and marketing at the beginning of September (how many of those Rodin/Claudel ads have you seen?) and trying to compete is obviously not working.

Moving it to March or April would seem to me to be a no-brainer. While most marketing budgets will have been spent by then, the buds on the trees and the weather getting warmer and better make everyone more inclined to do things, get out of the house if you will. It worked for the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, I’m certain it would work for Quartiers Danses.