The 20th Festival of New Dance’s closing program was steeped in local theme, accent and pedigree, with the cast, creators and often the material having strong connections to the dance scene and broader culture here.
“St. John’s Women,” choreographed and performed by Louise Moyes, is a multi-media piece that includes score and song (composed by Lori Clarke), photography (Justin Hall), and film (with camera work and editing by Baptiste Neis and Chris Darlington).
In addition, Moyes often blends her movement with dialogue. Thus, her dance here is highly narrative, often a physical underscoring or enhancement of the film image or illustration of the spoken words.
This is not to mean it is simplistic or incidental; it heightens and broadens the text, projected in one or another manner, and these performances, often brief, suit Moyes’ spare and frank style of movement. That this piece is built through biography and autobiography is another good match for Moyes. She can allow another character to pass through her, and, as herself, displays a candid appeal.
The piece starts with an image: the numbers “24-45-64;” these are the ages of the three women featured — Ashley Kapoor, Moyes, and Kay Haynes. Moyes met Kapoor at a business function; Haynes was her real estate agent. Despite the age difference and these tangential links to each other they are correlated by the things that concern us all — home, work, having fun, illness, faith.
“St. John’s Women” is paced by theme, introduced by a title, “Weather,” “Feminism,” “Love.”
Ashley and Kay, on film, are interviewed about this, and Moyes contributes some movement, and frequently her own words. Then they move on to the next chapter. The piece progresses at a nice pace. Moyes makes some simple costume changes, usually onstage, although she does exit at times.
Some of the material is manipulated. A photo sequence is synced in reference to a Harbour Symphony. Some of the recorded dialogue is looped. But Moyes’ touch and preference seems to keep the whole thing very open, very straightforward.
Next was “OK,” choreographed by Gwen Noah, and performed by Noah with Norman Adams; Adams does not dance but sits stage left, playing a cello which he entwines with tracks from a laptop sound system.
Noah wears a long-sleeved white top and loose brown trousers. Her movements seem somehow Latin, dramatic, coming from the shoulders and hip. She angles, and straddles, sometimes an arm or her entire body buzzes with tension. She returns to some places on stage, the centre, or upper stage right, and to certain postures, a boneless deep bend, a rigid walk on her toes, and then pulls and draws out a new repertoire. Sometimes she is responding to the music, or the musician, sometimes holding or channelling a note, or notes.
She moved through beautiful stances, reaching, stiff, arcing, seized, and sometimes would look out at the audience; while her posture was seductive her glance was ambiguous, perhaps fierce, even feral. There was a combination of precision and abandon. This piece had such nuance and sense of itself.
This was followed by “Kitchen,” choreographed by Tristan Rehner, and performed by Rehner, Caroline Niklas-Gordon and Anne Troake.
A note on dance. People often say they do not go to a modern dance performance because they are afraid they won’t “get it.” But there is no test afterwards — honest. If you are interested in performance you should see dance, and this festival consistently presents some very fine stuff.