A glimpse at the Festival of New Dance

Joan Sullivan
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The Festival of New Dance always offers a compelling menu of performance. It leaves “new dance” broadly defined and the presenting artists include everything from video installation to puppetry. The following is but a small selection:

Boyd Chubbs and Sarah Joy Stoker are among those who performed in this year’s Festival of New Dance in St. John’s, which ended Sunday. — Submitted photo

George Stamos

Liklik Pik

Choreographed by George Stamos; performed by Dany Desjardins and Stamos

This opening-night piece, a multi-disciplinary piece with video and dancer-manipulated props, was maddeningly disjointed, charmingly frank and at times astonishing and even frightening. It also delighted in breaking the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience, and then offering them cupcakes.

It features a male duet that moves in and out of pig masks and into loose cream or blue suits, set to a cacophonic soundtrack that sometimes climbs into integrative chants and continuously pairs animal sounds with human voices.

The dancers, who can move from disco strut to feral, not only without missing a beat, but without missing each other’s beat, also quite self-consciously “talk” to the audience. Microphones are a throughline prop, which they frequently hand off in exchange. At one point they “stop” the show — “You get the idea,” Stamos says. “We could go on doing that for hours” — and raise the lighting to change the atmosphere and see the audience.

Video on a small screen was also incorporated very effectively. At one points it emits a glowing cyclops/helmet that seems spookily atavistic, and later becomes the upper half of a seated figure that morphs into hybrid forms. This animal/human fusion is the key that turns the piece; socially, sexually, what is animal, and what human?


Sasha Ivanochko and Aaron Lumley

Trio for Musician, Dancer and Double Bass

Co-created and performed by Ivanochko and Lumley

Possibly no instrument looks more femininely human than a double bass, an element that is pivotal in this piece that is as much about form and shape as it is about movement. The two performers — dancer Ivanochko and musician Lumley — are constantly accompanied by the double bass, which provides hindrance and competition even as it contributes a soundtrack as played by both together and each in turn.

Ivanochko’s physicality is always under beautiful control, whether she is cascading towards a jerky almost-flight, flirtatiously serenading the audience, or languidly drawing her hair back with one hand. Lumley is equally present in stance and gesticulation, wielding tuning forks or a pair of bows, which he might use to pock-pock notes from the double bass, or walking Ivanchko around the floor like a mannequin. At times, the two people and one object seem to simply sway together. This dance is a kinetic configuration of dalliance, interference and embrace, all exchanges divided between three actors.


Electric City

Sarah Joy Stoker and Boyd Chubbs

Choreographed and performed by Stoker, music composed and performed by Chubbs

This piece debuted at RCA, but the Saturday matinee took place in Stoker’s studio and the setting was a great backdrop for the work: a wall of windows letting in the natural light of the October afternoon, the audience close to both dancer and musician. This is a  relatively short piece and the intimacy and understated design played a nice role in keeping it strong and full.

It consists of Chubbs, seated in the centre of the floor, playing “Across Waters and Stones” as Stoker moves around him. The piece is “a travel log in three temperaments,” as Stoker is in continual transit, departure and arrival and settlement, her fluid and graceful motion pegged by a particularly poised opening and closing posture behind Chubbs. The pose underscores Chubbs’ own movement, which is constantly oriented towards her. An evocative partnership, which, Stoker explained in a post-show talk, began when she was walking by a bar where Chubbs was playing, heard this song and went in. That brings the “electric” to the piece, which is otherwise acoustic, with his guitar, her breath.


Waving is Funny

By Tina Fushell with Luke Garwood and Molly Johnson

Performed by Fushell, Garwood and Johnson

To wave is a human gesture that transmits all kinds of messages — hello, goodbye, I’m over here, come to me. It’s part of ceremonies and flapper-girl-chorus lines. These intentions and many more are animated in this piece, which is affecting and enlivening and, yes, funny.

The three dancers work with three chairs, a projector, a sound system, and a handheld camera, all of which they move and operate themselves, sometimes, with the music especially, cueing shifts abruptly.

They enter as in a parade, their waving hands morphing them into a marching band. This signature riff off a wave continues through many scenarios, as they work in trios and duos and solos, even drafting in the whole audience at one point (wave particles as communication). The movement is always oscillating from their hands, and taking them into physical expression that has a very naturalistic palette. It often seems built, for example, on a child flopping down, or someone standing after a tumble, gingerly testing every muscle and bone. The video elements are well balanced, with Garwood, for one, holding the audience’s attention through a protracted series of waves set against different locations and circumstances (he’s standing in his driveway — no, he’s casting off on his boat).


Liz Solo

Dance Me

Choreographed and performed by Solo

Solo does not so much dance with as embed herself into fantastic, realized worlds cast by “Super-8 and large-scale data projections.” Entire realms are created with moving imagery propelled onto a big white space. As they shift seamlessly from domain to domain, Solo shores up waves in a sheet (which then becomes a romantic dancing partner, then a sleepless baby), paces under stars, and floats in a sub-aquatic ecosphere. Twice she picks up a book, and captures a floating or flying creature in its turning pages. The effect is very striking.

Program notes indicate this was crafted “through improvisation and play” and that sense of genesis and foundation is onstage here; it’s got that kind of scope.

Geographic location: Waters

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