Revisor (Contemporary Dance show)

Post-show reflection.

This cast was sublime together. Each dancer made their talent known and committed to each gesture, pose, slide, lift, etc. I am floored by their execution of this narrative. The timing of their lip syncing to the narrator’s lines was spot on each time. That gave me so much relief to see because I knew I could relax into the intensity of the story rather than trying to understand why the performers were moving their mouths. If I could go back and rewatch this, I would have screamed “Shantay, you stay” to each performer (Drag Race reference, if you were wondering).

Specifically, I’m so glad I got to see Cindy Salgado, Jermaine Spivey, Ella Rothschild and Doug Letheren. I have been fortunate enough to take classes with each of these amazing humans, and getting to watch them work through this show was such a treat. Doug was the first person who introduced me to the training of Gaga and the first teacher to help me understand how to stand on one foot. His performance as Director of the Complex was comically excellent.

Let’s talk about lighting. One of the most memorable moments for me was when the lighting was so quick that it made the dancers look like they were creating stop motion with their bodies. It threw me completely off guard because of the delicacy that the dancers used to time out the lighting shifts. Such genius. As well, the backdrop played with digital drawings that resembled a  computer screensaver. The brushes of light would fade in and out as the dancers moved, almost in coordination it seemed. 

All in all, if you are looking for a little bit of everything, go see this show. It is so well-rounded. With the addition of playwright Jonathon Young, who developed the story so effortlessly to fit the ideology of Crystal Pite’s movement, my theatre juices were bubbling the entire time. He has worked with her as a performer before so seeing what he can do with his words was awesome! I really admire when creators involve storyline into their work. It was so mesmerizing. I had to remind myself to stop moving my head so much because I kept being entranced by the dancers. My inner thighs remained engaged for the whole 90 mins. 

Thank you Kidd Pivot! You are constantly a Canadian masterpiece in my mind!

Training and Makeup Go a Long Way

When comparing performance styles, it is difficult to find similarities between them without diminishing the cultural and unique qualities that each country brings. Years of historical and socio-economic change have shaped these styles into the art of today’s landscape and so, it is essential to realize that each performance aesthetic merits its own exploration. Nonetheless, there are themes that tie these styles together when discussing international performance.

For example, in the Sacred Dances of Balinese performances, referred to as Wali, the dancers must use their bodies to display certain hand gestures while balancing headdresses atop their heads. This movement takes hours of practice to build the dexterity and posture required and in all honesty, a regular person off the street would not be able to perform this. The dancers need their bodies to be perfectly aligned, and therefore, they require a level of physical capability. This concept of well-defined performers is equally shown in Kathakali training throughout India. Learning exercises for the hands and face, sometimes starting at the age of ten years old, and developing an intense scale of athleticism ultimately leads these kinds of performers to mold their bodies to fit the demands of the training. They must work hard to reach this level of performance quality, often getting up early, and that is very admirable.

On the other hand, there is a common thread among entertainment performance, particularly the Balih-Balihan of Bali and the Jingju in Chinese Opera. Due to the requirement of exaggeration, the onstage performers must use makeup to shade and contour the outlines of their faces. The audience is so far away, and therefore, will not be able to view the interesting facial expressions or changes in emotion if the performers do not involve the use of excessive makeup. From up close, this artistic choice may seem hyperbolic and “clown-ish”, but it is crucial in guiding the audience towards understanding the piece of art. Balih-Balihan performers use makeup to express a more charming quality of movement, but it is still very important for the overall picture they are trying to present. Likewise, the Beijing Opera incorporates a character named “Painted Face” wherein the performer presents elaborate face make-up covering everything but his eyeballs. Each colour represents important characteristics for the narrative, and without this added feature, the character’s heroic attitude would just fade into the backdrop.

In terms of parallels to the Western notion of theatre, there are many traditions that have been translated overseas to North America. In the Sacred Dances of Bali, specific hand gestures and wrist movements are akin to the gestural forms of Western contemporary dance. Many contemporary dances will display dancers standing relatively still while they use their forearms, fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders to create movement. This concentrates the rhythm to only a few body parts rather than the entire body and helps the audience know where to put their focus. Wali dancers exhibit their hands to show musical interpretation to the audience, and this kind of performance reminds me that simple gestures can engage an audience just as much as a complicated piece of choreography. As well, in Balih-Balihan, the Balinese dancers are trained at a young age to be double-jointed and flexible in their hands, back, and legs. In a like manner, young ballet dancers are taught to have lean, agile bodies to meet the technical and physical requirements of ballet. Considering this, Balih-Balihan introduces the young dancers to maintaining a strong disciplined attitude towards their training due to the detailing of the choreography.

Throughout these past weeks, I have been immensely inspired to create my own work with this amount of care and dedication that has been shown. My piece that is being presented in Choreographic Works this coming March is about telling a narrative. I choreographed this piece by pulling from the Broadway musical “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown”, but making sure to personalize the story of four kids trying to write a book report. I was inspired by the Indian performance style of Ramayana to allow theatricality to be displayed onstage from the primitive source of text and literature. My dancers and I have been researching the various fables of the Peanuts characters to try and find ways that movement and acting can evoke moments of comedy and relatability for the audience. I plan to dive more into this concept of narrative, and I am excited to learn about other cultural and aesthetic performance styles as we continue on in this class.

A look back at February 2019…

Be greedy for what you deserve, not what you desire.

This month, I tried to find a productive amount of greediness. When I become too focused on my wants, I tend to develop selfish qualities in my daily life that hinder my sense of community and teamwork. I can’t always put energy into myself because then I lose the respect of my peers and friends. Making time to listen, respond and acknowledge the people around me was the goal.

My little sister is my light.

My family visited Toronto for Family Day weekend, and as soon as I saw my little sister, she ran up to me and I ran up to her with so much passion and excitement. Even though I don’t get to see her much, we have a great bond that always grows stronger each time we reunite. We share a love for music (I’ve helped her expand her music tastes over the years), a love for sports, and a joke or two about our parents. She also shares a birthday week with me (hers is four days after mine), so we got to celebrate with our whole family and it brought me so much happiness. I love her to bits!

Live and in stereo.

I was lucky enough to sit down with some friends of mine to discuss a show we worked on this month. I love listening to podcasts, so getting to host my own show has been a real treasure for me. I am trying to upload a podcast each Monday from now on, and if I can achieve this I believe it will help me build a portfolio and learn from others! Link here.

Winter is coming, has come, will come again.

I am in the process of rewatching the entire series of Game of Thrones to welcome in the new season that starts in April. Revisiting the character arcs of these beloved lords and ladies has really been enjoyable after a long day of dancing. Each storyline is so intensely complicated that I have to pay attention to the details. I can’t wait to see where the writers are going with each character in the new season… My bets are on Tyrion to win the throne, even though I can totally see the White Walkers winning. Also, I totally forgot that Sam killed a White Walker in season 3! The things you see when you actually engage with the art you are viewing!

Too much to do.

Recently, my brain feels like there’s not enough time to do the things I want to do. I love saying yes to opportunities because I know that it will benefit me in the long run, but in the short term, it can be exhausting to accomplish everything on my list. I’m even late to post this monthly reflection! In mid-February, I fell off the map and spent 3 consecutive days in bed, watching tv and eating whatever I wanted to. It was so needed, although it probably wasn’t very healthy. I rarely had time for myself this month, and so I decided for my own happiness to stay inside under my comfy covers. It was a greedy moment, that’s for sure. I tried to balance it out by seeing other people and getting out of my apartment, and that just made me tired again… where is the balance?! My depression was back this month, mostly because of exhaustion and feeling sad that I can’t make time for all of my endeavours. As well, my anxiety lingers still, but I’ve been able to channel it into my physical activity at school. I’m getting better at that. 🙂