Thursday, 7 November 2013

Nicole Mion/Brian Webb - Timms Centre for the Arts - Edmonton - October 11, 2013


Choreographer: Nicole Mion
Performers: Justine Chambers and James Gnam
Live Music: Tariq
Lighting Design: James Proudfoot
Costume Design: Natalie Purschwitz
Set Design: Nicole Mion
Stage Manager: Brian MacNeil
Dramaturge: Lee Su-Feh

Quiver begins with very dark lighting, a row of 14 two-foot-tall white household fans looking fresh from Wal-Mart covered in colourless translucent plastic are placed along the upstage border. Two are placed at centre stage about 3 meters apart. Downstage right is overtaken by a vast set-up for the musician Tariq, who is surrounded by more fans. A dancer (James Gnam), also covered in a colourless translucent plastic hoodie is at stage left, a special rectangular down spot illuminates his space.

Gnam is a supple and precise dancer. Seemingly trapped in his place, he transitions from wristy pops and locks to lurches to flopping, as though his puppet strings are cut but then reattached. Gnam's character reaches out to upstage left, as though there is something there that can set him free. With the similarly-costumed fans in the background, one might interpret Mion's concept for Gnam as an anthropomorphized fan, stuck forever in his sad fan-ness.

But then Gnam is then released from his place. He crumples, and ripples up, continuing across the stage with some robot moves contrasted with looseness, his character resembling Michael Jackson's Scarecrow from The Wiz. At this point, we don't know what the fans mean or what they'll be used for. At times, Gnam's character seems druid-like, hiding his face within the plastic hoodie, among a Spinal Tap-style mini Stonehenge. Despite the polished and sincere movements, dancing among the little fans comes off as silly. Taking a considerable amount of time and care, Gnam tenderly frees himself from his fan bag hoodie, now full of sweat pouring from the sleeves. We momentarily forget about the fans as Gnam delicately discovers his skin. Free of his strings, Pinocchio becomes a real boy.

For whatever reason, that's the last we see of Gnam. The next several sections feature the lithe Justine Chambers. Chambers establishes herself first by producing a taller stand fan. She sits on a stool and sets the fan to oscillate and follows the path of the fan with her head. Chambers then follows a similar path as Gnam, sometimes walking on all fours in a bear-like manner. When un-inverted, her leg often rises elegantly to a parallel à la seconde. She sets about her dance of discovering the fans, her low-level wonderment calling to mind essences of clowning mixed with contemporary dance. But considering her dutiful reconfiguration of the fans between sections, her sudden wonder seems unlikely. The piece becomes about plastic bags being blown about the stage. One section stands out as particularly unfortunate as Tariq steps out of his lair, and he and Chambers take an exceedingly long time to reconfigure the fans from around Tariq into a different circle around Chambers, who then plugs in the fans, turns them on, and dances with one of the plastic bags on a string, gazing at it almost lovingly. For this, Tariq switches from harmless ambient electronic to pleasant, if bland singer-songwriter, and the scene just comes off as sappy. For the big finish, as we can now expect, the fans are all in motion and there are bags everywhere as Chambers dances and watches her creation set in motion.

Side note: I was recently informed by a dance juror for another event in another city that no fewer than seven submissions involved electric fans. If you are considering making your own fan dance, I'd wait a few years for the fad to die down.


what awaits me

Performed and created by: Brian Webb and Nancy Sandercock
Music composed by: Ludwig van Beethoven (C# Minor Quartet)
                                  Dave Wall
Music performed by:  The Enterprise Quartet - Guillaume Tardif (1st violin), Yue Deng (2nd violin), Charles Pilon (viola), Tanya Prochazka (cello)
Video by:  Kyle Armstrong
Lighting design by: James Proudfoot
Costume Design by: Tamara Bliss
Stage Manager: Brian MacNeil
Artistic consultant: Ginelle Chagnon

Some of your favourite works of any art form might involve highly skilled silences, sustained low-level action, singular notes or chords that hover in the air, or paintings that show within a single colour. What makes the difference between success and failure is how well an artist can accomplish doing seemingly very simple things, or almost nothing, and what the intention is behind it, and how that might read to the audience.

You might recall an interview with Marcel Duchamp, being challenged and questioned on his work and the aesthetic of Dadaism. At the very end, the artist to his own amusement concedes something to the effect of, "In spite of myself, I am a meticulous man."

Witnessing a dance with very little happening, an uninformed audience might simply walk out anyway, wondering where the dance is. An informed audience might simply expect, after seeing and hearing many kinds of art that involve meticulous and practised austerity, that there will be something at least modestly transcendent about it. If it is sloppy and careless, they might just call bullshit.

Webb's stage begins empty of people but scattered with 15-20 mod-styled stackable chairs. A traditional arrangement of music stands for the quartet is in the upstage right. The first person to enter the space is the violist, Charles Pilon. He stands at the one of the upstage chairs and waits there a long time and eventually takes his place. With no further direction, he simply drops character and becomes the violist. One at a time, the rest of the musicians and the two dancers filter in. Two of the musicians seem less comfortable with wandering or waiting, and proceed directly to their places.

Webb begins walking about the stage, much like he did in a Mile Zero salon a few years ago. In that case, his character was clear. A senior citizen lost, wandering in silence and facing early onset dementia. Riding the cusp between lucidity and confusion, it was a poignant statement on aging. His lost walking in that piece was not well received by all, but this reviewer happened to appreciate it.

In what awaits me, Webb seems much less defined in his character, and it goes on for 45 minutes. His female partner, Nancy Sandercock, enters with ambivalence, and the piece then seems to be about ambivalence and waiting. Occasionally the two look at each other, not usually at the same time. Perhaps boredom is the point, but we might agree that we shouldn't be bored by watching. The continuing ambiguity of the characters' relationship does not stir intrigue, instead it becomes increasingly difficult to care about them.

After awhile, there is a longer pause in the music and a large projection screen slowly hums it's way open. The lights go out and the quartet attacks the music by Dave Wall with full force. The video shows a dark, almost monstrous figure, standing very erect. Eventually you can make out that it's Webb in silhouette. Sandercock also appears, standing erect, and sometimes in mirror image side by side.  There is no action other than standing. We can still see the live performers, they change their cadence to a very slow walk in a circle. They of course make this improvisational choice knowing they can still be seen by the audience. They seem to be in a dream state at times as they walk, but sometimes they can't resist breaking character to check out the video. As Wall's piece is aggressively sawed out by the impressive Enterprise Quartet, the video shifts and we see an image of Webb slowly walking away with his elderly mother down an institutional corridor. A couple of edits from the standing figures and back to the corridor, the dream ends, the lights come back, the screen hums its way up and we're back to Beethoven.

The dance returns to more walking and waiting through the chairs, though now there is a mildly hastened pace, a brief and unjustified spooning on the floor, mild agitation, occasional gestures of movement and rolls to the floor. It might be difficult to see this as anything but a hope for an upcoming climax and ending. You may have started counting the number of people walking out, and you hear someone loudly whisper from behind you, "Please…be over…"

Webb explains in the beginning of the program that he works with improvisation. It is possible that at this particular performance, the improvisation simply falls flat, that there are no happy accidents. It is also possible that Webb and Sandercock rely upon the staging and the considerable work of the collaborative artists to carry the piece and that they were not meticulous in forming their characters or movement concepts. It is possible that improvisation is performed in the absence of a serious practice of improvisation.

A highlight of the piece is the fact that Webb's mother is in the audience. From the beginning and during some of the longer silences, her frequent vocalizations and statements are carried throughout the theatre, creating some comic relief to the piece. Although we can't see her, she endears herself to us. And so, we want to like this piece, which is at least in part about her. But even she is reported to have said, "This should have been over by now."

Friday, 17 May 2013

Chairs and Boxes - Expanse Movement Arts Festival 2013

Expanse Movement Arts Festival
March 7-10, 2013
TransAlta Arts Barns
Edmonton, Alberta
Photos used with permission of Marc J Chalifoux

Presented by Azimuth Theatre in partnership with Mile Zero Dance (Featured Artist Showcase curation), Catch the Keys Productions, Good Women Dance Collective (workshops), Latitude 53, and the University of Alberta Department of Drama. Curated by Murray Utas.

Topic 1. Keynote Address
The Corporeal - Constructs in the work of Jan Fabre
Luk Van Den Dries (Brussels)
By beginning the festival with a retrospective look at the work of Jan Fabre, the festival organizers established their desire to push the envelope for movement arts in Edmonton. The festival did not include world dance forms, it did not include gymnastics, or martial arts. Instead, the organizers included dance artists, theatre artists performing physical work and performance artists. In short, the emphasis was on art.

Van Den Dries' presentation included documentation of Jan Fabre's work as well as his personal experiences being present for some of Fabre's work. He provided examples of Fabre's more shocking work involving real performances of duration, pain and humiliation of the body. The most riveting part of Van Den Dries' presentation was his own account of attending a performance of Der Palast um vier Uhr morgens. In this performance, Fabre had used his blue Bic pens to color every surface of the rooms. He described arriving at four in the morning in the darkness. As a woman sang, dawn broke and performers were slowly revealed throughout the space around them.

Topic 2. The Problem of Music
With the exception of very few original collaborations, there were no music credits provided in the program for this festival. This was a poor solution to the deep and widespread problem of movement artists using recorded music without permission of music artists and without compensation to them. This topic will be addressed in a separate and upcoming blog entry featuring interviews and commentary from composers, musicians, choreographers and educators.

Topic 3. Chairs and Boxes
Chairs and boxes are used often in contemporary dance and theatre. They are objects to stand on, hide in, conceal objects, places to balance, to rest and to launch from. And they are commonplace and easy to come by. But if you have seen many, many dances that feature chairs and boxes, you might find yourself feeling wary the moment they show up on stage. And it might be interesting to you that so many of the pieces in Expanse so prominently feature chairs and boxes.

4. Reviews: Featured Artist Showcase

Fight or Flight
"A woman, a wooden box, a fragmented language and a Czech lullaby..."
Choreographer/Performer: Helen Husak (Calgary)
Composer: Amir Amiri

Photo by Marc J Chalifoux
Starting from her hiding place inside a box, Husak combines angsty virtuosic movement and emotion with text in which she describes her awkwardness with a bilingual family, personal history and identity. Husak is a committed and intense performer. The delivery of her words is simple but strongly personal, intelligent rather than sappy. Her box is heavy and wooden. She hides in it, behind it. She finds things in it. At the height of her personal meltdown, she wears this heavy box on her head and tells us she is ok until she genuinely cries while saying so. What we glean from this troubled soul is that life is difficult and heart wrenching, with mere glimpses of light when we can emerge from the heavy wooden boxes we build around ourselves.
Husak gave a workshop during the festival. From this piece and from the description of the course, psychology and behaviour are the cornerstones of her work.

Duet, The Space Between
"For those who are near you are far away...and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind..." from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Choreographer: Helen Husak (Calgary)
Dancer Interpreters: Pamela Tzeng and Erin O'Loughlin (Calgary)
Mentors: Susie Burpee and Davida Monk
Music: no credits given
Photo by Marc J Chalifoux
In this piece, we see the dancers enter on a bench.  Why does this matter? It matters because they brought a bench all the way from Calgary, and Husak and her mentors felt it was important or interesting to feature it. In this case, the bench serves an elevated level on which to balance the pelvis. It also has room enough for two. This is a point of connectivity in a dance where the two dancers seem to exist on a planet where an external force is toying with the women as though they are full of magnets, their north and south poles constantly shifting within their bodies. Soon enough the bench gets knocked over in the frenzy and is forgotten for most of the rest of the piece. The women, dressed in similar dresses which are in negative to each other, are very strong dancers. Lovely with out being overly precious or timid, they dive to the floor fearlessly, and are able to sustain our interest in the visibly frustrating forces that keep them together, yet apart.

dances to music
Creator/Performer: Denise Clarke (Calgary)
Score Construction: Richard McDowell
Stage Manager: Michelle Kennedy
Music: No credits given, which is weird because it seems important considering the title. But the music is Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, Pyramid Song by Radiohead (the lyrics are projected line-by-line onto the cyclorama as you enter the space), and An der schönen blauen Donau, Op 314 by Richard Strauss.
Photo by Marc J Chalifoux
Denise Clarke of One Yellow Rabbit (Calgary) was the featured artist for the Expanse Movement Festival two years ago. It's easy to love Clarke, as she is a fully-realized performer. dances to music, like her piece Sign Language is part theatre, part dance. It's another one woman show. She takes us on a journey and we are generally riveted to her smooth storytelling voice, her dance capabilities, and her constant balance of depth and humour.

In dances to music, it is slowly revealed to us that she is going through some difficulty in her life. We don't find out what that difficulty is until a half an hour into the work. What we know is that she is working on her "cheering up program," and we are somehow genuinely a part of it. So are these three pieces of music. The explains that the dances are made up of her memorized list of her books, which is rather detailed and variable. Though she seemingly glosses over the somewhat recent loss of the books, it's clear that the books count as another one of her recent tragedies. And so she dances for us this list three times in the course of the hour. Once while marking it in deep snow, once quickly while she recites the list, and once, finally, to music.

5. Reviews: YEG Spotlight
(featuring Edmonton performers)

Here. Like this. 
Creator: Amber Borotsik in collaboration with the performers (Edmonton)
Performers: Amber Borotsik, Tony Olivares, Laura Raboud and Cory Vanderjagt
Music: Aaron Macri and Cory Vanderjagt
Dramaturge: Jesse Gervais
Borotsik’s piece starts in the lobby. A car is parked just outside the Westbury Theatre's large glass doors, high beams on to blast the lobby with light. Borotsik and her cohorts (Raboud and Olivares) wheel out a steam punk contraption of oddities that produce light and sound. As the wooden cart (led by a chair) threatens to spin out of control, the dancers dressed in 1940’s finery dodge, roll and charge with it. They offer excised speakers to the audience to hold them up to their ears like conch shells. Not everyone can hear those sounds, but the rest of Macri’s sound design percolates through the space with textures and gentle interjections. The dancers speak in unison, they start to say things, they interrupt themselves. 

The three make their way from near the entrance of the lobby to the back corner with their contraption. Once there, a light shines on a young cowboy poet (Vanderjagt) who sings a bittersweet folk song. At first the dancers stop and seem hypnotized, swaying dreamily as Macri adds an ethereal electronic layer to the folk waltz. The dancers choose a couple of audience members to slow dance with, and despite the cold March weather, it feels like we could somewhere out on the prairie on a hot summer night. From there, the sound/light/rope/chair/cart contraption enters the theatre with the artists and the audience follows. 

The energy ramps up a bit as the performers start and stop introductions and engage in a boisterous

Photos by Marc J Chalifoux
welcome. The contraption, the ropes, the chair, the dancers spinning out of control or rolling about the space. It's a surreal scene as the cowboy poet passes by the madness, Olivares struts back and forth telling us something very exciting in Spanish, and Raboud exercises her operatic vocal chords.

It's an enjoyable and whimsical piece. Nothing is predictable, including the ending, in which the piece simply evaporates as the host Steve Pirot makes his way onto the stage to help deadpan a segue from the teardown of Borotsik's piece into the extensive set up of the Mile Zero Dance piece.

(un)static : motions in electricity
by Mile Zero Dance (Edmonton)
Performers: Gerry Morita and Richard Lee
Music: Victoria Reiswich-Dapp
Scenography: Patrick Arès-Pilon

Photos by Marc J Chalifoux
The inventory of objects laid out in this room is too long to list. It includes vinyl records, cassette tape players, fans, various vessels of water, tables, cables, several lamps, TV trays, tables, an upright piano, and a big wooden box, down stage and centre.

Morita and Lee pace through the space, setting in motion many of the various contraptions in the space. Drops of blue are added to each large water vessel. The dancers record weird dream memories into old cassette tape recorders, the visual of this is makes it seem as though they are telling the little machine a secret. We only hear parts of the dreams (Lee describes a push-up dream, as though that's some kind of Jungian classification), and later we hear the dreams as the cassettes are hacked and played back, the tape unspooled and used to decorate the room.
The movement vocabulary shifts between a casual, almost bored walk through the set, which then bursts into spastic electrocutions, limbs jerk, bodies are thrown down and abruptly back up again.

The dancers and the set are lit by a slowly moving contraption of lights on a rusty wagon controlled by Arès-Pilon, resulting in a giant moving play of shadows of the dancers and the objects. The sounds and activity on the set are entertaining, mysterious and unpredictable. A light swings and the dancers dodge it as they dance. There is a divertissement in which the dancers don Edmonton Oilers hockey jerseys and engage in a sort of call and response head banging exchange, which ends in all-out thrashing in unison. That ends and they return to their wonderland of objects to set in motion.

Ultimately, the dancers have the whole set buzzing and sparking, but Arès-Pilon slowly begins turning out the lights and silencing everything. Morita ends up in the box, which emits light. She appears to attach heavy boots to her feet and she begins to dance. The box seems to be contact miked because we hear the sound of glass smashing with her boots against the wooden box amplified throughout the room. The lights go out one by one under her feet, and she finishes the dance by stomping on them defiantly as the last light goes out.

Ingenuity and abstraction are hallmarks of Mile Zero Dance under the vision of artistic director Morita. In this piece this came through very well on the first night, though on the second night the dancers seemed much more weary, or perhaps they were playing more with the contrast between the electric shocks and the mundane walking aspect of the piece. Regardless, it is full of surprises, strong dancing and the odd wonders that we've come to expect from Mile Zero.

6. Mini-Reviews: Raw
works in progress by emerging artists

Scars Are Healing Wrong
Creator/Performer: Julie Ferguson (Edmonton)
Video Design: Show Stages Collective (Joel Adria, Elijah Lindenberger, T Erin Gruber)
Costume Design: Camille Maltais
Music: No credits given.
Photo by Marc J Chalifoux
Ferguson suffered a terrible illness at a young age. And while you sincerely hope she recovers fully to lead a normal happy life, and you genuinely hope creating this work helps her progress through the psychological difficulties of overcoming such an illness, at this stage of creation the piece is dance therapy set to music. At least three and possibly four pop songs in duration, the music consists of sentimental ballads of illness and recovery. Ferguson's considerable skills as a mover and her passion when reliving her own pain are a strength for the piece and we clearly see that she went through a lot to get to this point.

The accompanying video is a primary focal point of the piece, but needs more work in terms of quality of content (medical animations from YouTube and Ferguson's mawkish scrapbooking), image quality and editing.

We Don't Look Back
Choreographer/Performer: Mark Ikeda (Calgary)

Photo by Marc J Chalifoux

Ikeda exudes a confidence that is magnetic. In this piece he talks about his Japanese heritage, the history of Japanese people in Canada, and the lingering personal ramifications of that history, suggesting that some do look back.

He begins with a lecture presentation which includes recordings and he expands the storytelling into dance. It's a challenge to transition from front-facing text delivery to dance, and Ikeda mostly pulls it off. His movement vocabulary is unique and earthy, and his choreography is interesting enough to allow us to forgive any technical shortcomings. One profound allegory of a bird carried by a relative is heard three times, and each time after the first it loses power.

The politics of the story are interesting, and Ikeda's rage is real. In its current state the piece comes off as a bit preachy, though this may not be his intended goal in his final product.

Choreographer: Alida Nyquist-Schultz
Performers: Ainsley Hillyard, Alison Kause, Richard Lee, Kate Stashko
Music: Marjan Mozetich
Photo by Marc J Chalifoux

Nyquist-Schultz of Good Women Dance Collective is working on a power-packed piece of internal and external versions of withholding. It's a work in progress fresh out of an artist residency through Mile Zero Dance. Since the first version she has changed the piece. Where the beginning originally had almost too much happening, the current version takes a little too long to heat up. As the music bears down, two dancers initially stand strongly, establishing their presence, occasionally looking back and forth across the stage.  This goes on for long enough that you might start to worry someone missed their entrance. But after that there is a lot of action on stage, and all the sex appeal that is the trademark of a Good Women production.

Dancers Kause and Lee are particularly strong in this work, apparently being withheld by external forces and by each other. Hillyard and Stashko appear to be restricted more by internal forces. The pathways and spatial design of this piece are complex and visually appealing, the themes in the movement stand out more than individual movements.

From the Event Series
As a matter of BOX
Choreographer/Performer: Pamela Tzeng

Photo by Marc J Chalifoux
This author did not see this piece. But she heard it was pretty good. To close this coverage of the Expanse Festival, here is the program note:

"What's in a box? Ubiquitous in daily life these spectacular right-angled, cuboid containers store and transport what is precious, necessary and sometimes unwanted. Although fantastically practical, these walled objects also confine us from exploring the infinite possibilities of our imagination."

Wednesday, 2 January 2013


Presented by Mile Zero Dance
Created and Directed by Tedi Tafel in collaboration with Lin Snelling
Performed by Lin Snelling
Video by Tedi Tafel
Sound by Monique Jean
Technical Assistance by Grant Wang
Lighting by Patrick Arès-Pilon
Photographs by Grant Wang and with permission
of Mile Zero Dance

On a crisp October night, we were invited to a mystery home in Oliver, one of the few neighborhoods in Edmonton which might be called quaint. With large trees and cool air around us, we walked up to the door, people there to quietly greet us. It turned out to be the home of theatre director Piet Defraeye, whose address you could only get once your ticket was confirmed.
We took off our shoes and were guided through the front room-turned-performance space. We sat on various chairs and step stools just inside the dining room, facing the triptych of windows before us.  The centre window had been turned into a video screen, and the two side windows had been boarded up and painted off-white like the rest of the room. Two small black speakers were mounted conspicuously to the side walls.

As we made ourselves comfortable on pillows and the volume of the cicada-like waves of sound increased, a summer outdoor scene materialized in the centre window. The scene changed from summer to winter, and then to another summer scene of trees and other vegetation.

Snelling slowly entered the room wearing a white blouse and grey pants, a simple but tasteful outfit which called to mind the catalogues of L.L.Bean and J. Crew.

Searching the room with her eyes, her body tentative, she seemed to both recognize the room and disbelieve its very existence. Yet it also seemed to be a room in a house that she lived in currently. Empty of furniture, she began to search the floor, not looking for clues, or perhaps memories.

As she did so, the video started to travel, as though we were in a moving car or train, the sun shining through trees. Snelling occasionally seemed to look out the window with us, but even with her back to us, she seemed to be looking through to the other side of the view, to the other side of the memory.

As we listened to breathing, waves and footsteps, the view turned into a fire. Not an object on fire, but fire. But then back to fall, and back to winter. Sometimes the scenes were the same as before, sometimes they were different places within the same season. Snelling left the room, the floor creaking behind her. We wondered for a moment if we should follow, but after we heard a couple of unsettling banging sounds she returned. This time the room seemed to be a sinking ship, leaving Snelling unsteady and stumbling from wall to wall. Through the trees in the video we saw a juxtaposed hallway, a man walking. The images gently cut back and forth between these scenes and seasons.

As Lin moved in her disoriented fog, she began to speak. As she searched through the missing parts of her own memory, we could only occasionally catch glimpses of her thoughts as she switched from English to French.
“misfortune…....seen…….sometimes just after daylight…..…beautiful……..conversation……..she didn’t understand anything…..”

Snelling’s character appeared to be trying to remember something. As she rolled on the floor, she cupped her hands over her mouth and spoke into the wooden floor, which both muffled her words and amplified her voice.

“Also campfires……her voice…..she wanted us to catch up to her!…” we caught sporadic words as Snelling paced, dove, and rolled, whirled and floated.  “Conversation at a table…..I was……..You were…..” Sometimes Snelling stopped to smile or laugh while remembering, taking time to listen hard to her own mind.

The sounds from the speakers then turned oddly militaristic as 16th notes with occasional holes in them drummed by. Snelling seemed to curl up and tire out. The corridor in the video came back again, this time with a slow motion chase of a girl and an woman. Snelling rolled toward the wall. When she hit the edge, she kept rolling against the wall as if it might budge a little and let her out.

The scene changed to winter, a translucent woman in the video stood full against a window looking out. At one point Snelling joined the figure in the window, which seemed to be herself in another time, perhaps another place. Snelling turned away from the window and sat on the floor. Her movements changed to an specific if abstract pantomime, seeming to sew through her own hand, or from the wall, or to the floor. For a time she relaxed with her back to the video window. Her arms rose and fingers softly trickled downward. At the same time, a fall scene with the first snow faded into view. Snelling's character seemed to be settling into the first visible transition of seasons (rather than sudden jolts from one to the other). Edmonton had it's first autumn snowfall of the year that day, so the image seemed particularly poignant.
Lin arose and slowly found her way to the doorway of the room for the final time. Still very reflective, but as far as we could tell, a more settled soul.

The intimate location of this performance was an intriguing choice on the part of Tafel. Our hosts offered us apple cinnamon tea after the performance and we realized how chilled we were in that front room. It was not a comfortable vantage point for the audience, within inches of the performer. While the home was a lovely and spacious one, the front room was small and did not afford the sort of distance we might have liked for a piece dealing primarily with fading memory. The small room did not afford Snelling the space she needed to launch or travel some of the larger movements or to resolve them in a believable way for this character. However at times this awkwardness worked, and came off more appropriately as an insect trapped in a jar. The wooden floor and lack of furniture were successful in creating a sense of absence, an unresolved past and a still-pending present. But on the way in, the audience had already seen that the the house was a normal house in the other areas and it was difficult to suspend disbelief for this singular room, particularly as Snelling made entrances and exits into the other rooms and made sounds from them.

Snelling herself is an incredibly intelligent and intuitive performer. She manages to be simultaneously fearless yet remarkably fluid, trademarks that permeate her movement regardless of her immediate situation on stage. Her strawberry blonde hair is an appendage of these qualities, wild and yet smooth, as though she is underwater, her hair falling into place as she completes a phrase. She also has a calm, clear speaking voice which she uses frequently in her performance practice. One of the more unusual aspects of her presence is that her face appears to be both young and old at the same time. This is not to say that she looks young for her age, or vice versa. It is a captivating quality you may not have seen in other performers or people in general. The benefit of seeing Snelling in this intimate space was to being so close to the subtlety of her movements, which always read all the way to the back of the theatre, but in this case we could be directly in front of the careful presence of her face, hands, shoulders feet.

October stands alone as a piece, though you might feel you want to see it within the context of the other eleven sections of Tafel's Calendar. It is compelling, leaving the audience disconcerted and full of questions, but intrigued. We never understand the nature of this possibly traumatic event that October attempts to recall. And we might mourn the loss of our own memory fragments that haunt us in our own homes, in simple rooms that have changing meanings for us, even as we live in them.