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.