As the curtain closes on the 8th Biennial Dance In Vancouver Festival (held November 23-26, much can be said about a festival that offers exposure to the Vancouver Dance Community. Years ago "The Dancing on The Edge Festival" held at the Firehall Theatre, offered such an opportunity to the city to view its own dancers trying new and experimental works on the boards. However, in recent years DOTE has (to some extent) become a slick showcase of National Artists more than a sampling of home grown talent. Now DIV provides this much needed opportunity.
Four days of local choreographers and dancers, both in performances and in talk backs has allowed us to re-discover Vancouver as a contemporary dance resource. Thus, Scotia Bank Dance Centre has, once again, given Vancouver dance appreciators a chance to enjoy the city's rich and quixotic, contemporary dancing identity.
Memorable are the dances of "battery opera performance" whose pieces challenge the line between contemporary performance art, and the common place performance of the mundane. The three works offered by this company, over the course of the festival (James, Jung-Ah and Su-Feh, and MHotel) blend movement and theatre which experiments on the interface of art and life, rhythm and stillness, voice and movement, and the exotic and the commonplace.
All three of the pieces of bop use stillness and sensuality, intensity and personal confession in an interplay of carefully timed moments which pull us in emotionally and keep us there. MHotel, directed by David Macintosh of bop, was held in a small hotel room at the Holiday Inn (during but not in the festival venue) and involved us in a piece of non-theatre (no-theatre) which challenges social boundaries, and modernities sense of social space, while it had its 5 person audience sprawling on a king sized bed as dancer and actor took turns offering sustained tone poems of dance versus authentic speech. The piece worked. It challenged our notions of dance theatre, minus the fourth wall, while the venue became the embodiment of our collective, existential experience in the context of the four walls of this small, dull room.
Another work by the same company "Jung-Ah and Su-Feh", choreographed by Su-Fe Lee, weaves a delicate balance of mundane simplicity and sexual complexity in the lives of two blond housewives, who hide in wigs and furs (and sunglasses) until the exact moment of their disclosure, where they finally yield to shedding their urban camo to become real thru a halting yet unrelenting desire to dance for one another. We (the audience) are left unnerved as they become exposed, and the sweetness of their exposure makes a mockery of their earlier paraphernalia. Although most of the dances offered by the festival gave testimony to the richness of Vancouver's home grown dance scene, "battery opera performance" provided cutting edge work that went beyond the usual, and into the unusual, thus taking us into the unknown to question ourselves, as well as much of urban life that threatens to place us within a cookie-cutter existence. (By Christine Elsey)