Sunday, 7 October 2012

Inheritor Album - 605 Collective

Inheritor Album by 605 Collective
Presented by Brian Webb 
October 5-6, 2012
Timms Centre for the Arts
Edmonton, Alberta

Choreographers and Dancers:
Lisa Gelley, Shay Kuebler, Josh Martin, Justine A Chambers, David Raymond, Laura Avery

Original Sound Design:
Kristen Roos

Miwa Matreyek

Lighting Design/Technical Director:
Jason Dubois

Inheritor Album is the second offering in this year's series presented by Brian Webb. The previous week Bboyizm was presenting urban dance performance for Edmonton, and Webb presented 605 Collective as "a different kind of urban dance," specifically an urban and contemporary dance fusion. Urban dance has influenced most dance forms at this point, finding its way into everything from belly dancing to ballet, drawing on various cadences, attitudes and levels of commercialism. This particular combination can be tricky, and if you've had past experiences with other performers, you might have simply called it suburban dance. As Webb introduced the company, he used the word "physicality" several times and explained the success of Interitor Album at a recent dance festival. And there was a sense of local pride in the introduction since two of the three core collective members are from Alberta (Edmonton and Camrose) despite the company's home base in Vancouver.

Separated into several sections, perhaps 8 or 10, the core of the 605 Collective (Gelley, Kuebler and Martin) explore different concepts of inheritance and give them each their own chapter in this album. The first section begins with a very dark stage except for a cool blue-green light, sometimes in down spots which move. The dancers randomly dart across the stage. A computer-generated circle of bright green light forms and begins to spiral. The group is in the middle. Individuals begin to run the lines of the circle, sometimes joined by the centre group. In a sort of relay, they come together but one or the other gets thrown back to the centre, watching for when it’s their turn to get caught up in the centrifugal force of the rotating spiral.

As it turns out, the 605 Collective maintains a serious edge throughout all the sections. The urban dance references act more to enhance a vocabulary of contemporary aesthetic dance forms; inversions and floor work that when performed are technically like urban dance, but with an introspective approach that changes the game. The dancers dive, spin, and are sucked into hyperspeed, then come out the other side with graceful sudden stops, glides and tumbles. Almost of all the faster movements are on or close to the floor. Arms and legs are cast outward which bodies meet with twisty shuffles and rolls, often like stones being tossed around in the action of shallow waves, occasionally coming to rest on the bottom before being propelled along the seafloor for another run. At times the dancers appear to struggle to keep up with each other in the unison phrases, but that’s part of the appeal. It is not an easygoing dance, and the movement evokes the sort of accepted burden that comes with inheritance. In other sections, the unison is randomized, with dancers starting and stopping mini phrases like popcorn. A couple of sections look like advanced versions of improv or choreography 101 such as the follow-the-leader section, and the rapid fire tableau that happen late in the piece. The follow-the-leader section starts out looking like a scorpion with the dancers attached at mostly-outstretched arms, but they detach and they move so well together that in profile they look like video feedback of each other.

At times the dancers separate and get caught up in their own sort of personal groove. The dancers stand hunched over, allowing waves of movement to progress from their feet, catching at their hunched shoulders and causing a little funky head bob. They do this for quite a long time, and the movements seem to change subtly from the groove to almost seizure-like to dry heaves and back again to groove (illness appears to be one of inherited traits in the piece). This theme comes back a couple of times and its simplicity and sense of solitude in a crowd is striking. They allow this to go on long enough to spend time looking at the way each dancer does this, and after looking at them awhile you might think of those wiggly inflatable guys at used car lots.

The dancers are dressed in generic Gap-like jeans and khakis with short sleeved shirts. It's possible it has taken you the two weeks since you saw the performance to decide how you feel about the drab attire and how it relates to the rest of the super-slick production (intense electronic music, specialized lighting and custom-designed computer animations). On one hand, the clothing makes the dancers look more boring than they are, and a there is a strong aesthetic disconnect. On the other, it's logical that the production elements are there to help our everyday heroes transcend their blandness and connect to the intangible. You might finally decide that both are true. And socks! If you ask other dancers about the socks they might say, “I know, right? I think it’s a Vancouver thing.” Most dancers warm up in socks but shed them as the feet require more feedback and friction from the floor. Somehow the 605 dancers are able to find enough traction to dig in and perform the precision floor work.

As an audience member it’s hard to keep track of all the sections of Inheritor Album, and there’s nothing in the program that delineates them for us. Each section is almost a separate piece, which led to a heated discussion among audience members after the show whether or not people should have applauded between them. Each section has its own slow build and its own resolution, the lights going to full blackout with a bit of space before the start of the next with no continuation of one narrative to the next. However, movement themes do return, and the pacing of each section is similar, the album tied together with sound and visuals. But the lack of continuity is occasionally almost humorous; the dancers who all seem to collapse or even die a slow death in one section, appear exactly the same in the next section, completely unscathed.

The computer-generated lighting graphics are successful in complementing the dance rather than the very usual problem of interfering with it. Sometimes the design creates fascinating puddles of light under the dancers, tracking their movements. Other times intricate webs (or spreading bacteria) sprout from dancers as they strike curious poses on the floor. Sometimes the graphics add a layer to the design, and sometime they are more literal, such as in the woman-against-the-crowded-world solo as graphic buildings grow up around her and crowd her visually into a corner. While the light graphics are visually interesting and effective, they don't come close to fitting on this particular proscenium stage, bleeding way onto the walls, floors and ceiling of the space. That might seem like a contemporary shrug to traditional rules, however it frequently threatens to remove us from the psychological space of the piece.

The electronic/computer music score is intricate and intense, utilizing some interesting and harsh real-world sounds. One section begins with the dancers in rectangles of light as we listen to an industrial-strength hammering sound. Kristen Roos provides rich textures and pulses rather than the beats and bass we often expect to accompany many urban dances. Some might think the music is too loud. It is not.

Inheritor Album is a dark piece, except for the last section which seems to open up the sky. The lights are up to maybe 6 instead of 3, and for the first time just on the warm side of cool. The dancers engage in an optimistic sort of urban-meets-country line dance that covers huge amounts of space, possibly an homage to dances the choreographers inherited from Alberta. The light darkens again slightly as the dancers are once again together in centre stage, caught up in their personal groove. A sonar-like wave of light repeatedly wipes the stage from top to bottom. The group systematically disintegrates as the dancers walk off stage one-by-one. The last dancer remains for a moment, but in the waves of light we continue to see the shadows of the other dancers, standing like ancestors as the last dancer walks off stage.

Please see Kelsie Acton's review of 605 Collective's Inheritor Album at Sound + Noise.

No comments:

Post a Comment