Louise Moyes’ ‘docu-dance’ performance is fluid

Joan Sullivan
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Louise Moyes performs to the “Harbour Symphony” on Signal Hill.
—Submitted photo

Louise Moyes creates and performs in a genre she calls “docu-dance.” These are pieces with rhythm and choreography that is braced by research and incorporates multimedia elements. Soundscapes are also important to Moyes’ presentations, and are sometimes supplied by her own bilingual dialogue.

This production pairs the short “My Secret Pig” with the longer (40 minutes or so) “St. John’s Women.”

The first opens on a stage showing a ceramic pig set on a stool, and a microphone. Moyes enters, and tells a story of walking her dog along Duckworth Street, and what happened when she met a man with a Cockney accent, and then a young Quebecoise girl (I won’t give the joke away). Here her movements are natural, but very carefully chosen and ever-so-slightly exaggerated. She adapts different characters, and re-enacts the incident from different points of view.

With a quick costume change, Moyes is clad in a red robe wrapped over a dress, and she sings a love song to her beloved pig, a still life on a pedestal. Then comes the third section, when Moyes, now in a flowing pink gown, wields her way through a ménage of dance styles, including belly dance, ballroom, even a bit of line dancing. Moyes has a way of breaking these sequences down and putting them back together in a way that minutely fractures them into a kind of marionette display, something jerky, yet gung-ho. She plays with the fluidity and the tempo. It is fun to watch; the only problem is that it doesn’t seem to be related to the first two parts, or the title. What is the core of “My Secret Pig”?

“St. John’s Women” is more cohesive. It is full of personality, with three women (Moyes, Ashley Kapoor, and Kay Haynes) deftly articulated through film and taped narrative (and, in Moyes’ case, also on stage). Good lighting, credited to JPT, and a well-integrated soundtrack from the stunningly versatile Lori Clarke keep things tight and rich.

This is broken into different chapters, titled by theme; “Weather,” “Love,” and “Religion” among them. Each can include a brief filmed interview with one of the subjects; a spare, crafted dance from Moyes; and a voice-over scrim of story that becomes a backdrop to a movement sequence, or simple stillness, or both.

Other innovations are added. For example, at one point a series of still photos of Moyes dancing on Signal Hill are shown in a flipbook style, where her motion becomes both jagged and organic. The sound behind it is from a Harbour Symphony.

What the audience hears is important. Sometimes a voice-over takes front and centre stage, as when Haynes remembers being brought to see her mother, a patient at the Sanatorium. Haynes was just a little girl, carefully dressed by an aunt for the occasion. The closest her mother could get to her was to look out of a window as she played.

“There were a lot of faces at the windows,” Haynes said. She learned how to find her mother in that crowd.

And there is a lot more to this woman’s story, unfolding between words about the city (and the woman) in past and in present. It is rewarding to follow it.

“St. John’s Women” and “My Secret Pig” continues at Resource Centre for the Arts until Sept. 22, at 8pm.

Organizations: Sanatorium, Resource Centre

Geographic location: Duckworth Street, Signal Hill

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