Performer astounding in ‘Cible de Dieu’

Joan Sullivan
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Jacques Poulin-Denis. — Submitted photo

The second night of the Festival of New Dance launched with a piece that reinforced what the event is all about.

Its program can include a type and a calibre of work you will simply not find anywhere else.

Jacques Poulin-Denis’ “Cible de Dieu (Target of God)” is an astounding and assured blend of clowning, burlesque and calamity conveyed through a physical mastery that is as compelling as it is, at times, unexpected.

As a performer Poulin-Denis is constantly directing, or misdirecting, with patter and humour; as a dancer he upends and underscores the emotional pitch and cadence with a choreography that can be gobsmackingly surprising.

At the beginning, the stage is simply set with a red-cushioned café-style chair, which has a furled umbrella leaning against it, and a microphone on a stand. Poulin-Denis enters wearing a sleeveless, grey short and loose black leggings. Right away, he encounters a problem, as the microphone doesn’t work. Never mind, he doesn’t need a sound system, the audience can hear him just fine.

Such impediments happen to him all the time with this piece (and his life), he explains. For example, the chair he normally uses is held up in transit, so he is trying to make do with a substitute. Although this replacement doesn’t look quite sturdy and up to the task — but, anyway, he’ll do the piece. Only, now, it seems the sound cue is off. He directly addresses the technician in the booth (“Marie-Eve”), who can be heard frantically shifting files and equipment, but to no avail. Whatever the problem is, it won’t be resolved quickly.

Poulin-Denis is apologetic.

The cue should have resulted in Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”… but perhaps the audience knows this famous tune? And could hum it for him? Pleased with the response, he executes a pas de deux with the chair that is hilariously self-conscious, enfolding every clichéd ballet note.

But he cannot finish. The chair is sliding all over the place, it is “too slippery,” he tells us, it makes him “nervous,” a statement he repeats until suddenly the stage is blaring with lights and  sound and he is now in another world of pulsing beats and muscular choreography.

The movements are aggressive, a pattern of bare knuckle fighting, with every jump and jab taken apart and put back together in a manner that somehow flows fluidly while highlighting every shift and signal.

Then this, too, ebbs and suddenly we are back to Poulin-Denis expressing regret for the lost chair. This is the rhythm of the piece, which is paced with iterations and interruptions, a tightrope of relationships and mishaps, slapstick and profundity that is spellbinding.

This was followed by Moonhorse Dance Theatre and “Dances in a Small Room.”

The Festival continues today with an installation, “The Bather,” open at the Resource Centre for the Arts throughout the afternoon, followed by a discussion, and then presents Susanna Hood’s “Shudder,” at 8pm.

Friday sees the Max Dancers, Soul Steps Crew, and Cas Public with “Variations S.”

For more information check festivalofnewdance.ca.

Organizations: Moonhorse Dance Theatre, Resource Centre

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