Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sink, Swim, and Kick. Crépuscule des Océans at Agora de la Danse

This is the second time I have seen this piece performed at the Agora de la Danse in Montreal. For those of you who don’t know French, it means, “Twilight in the Ocean.” In every way imaginable, the seven performers who make up this piece capture the movements and struggle of sea creatures as they either awaken, settle, mate, and die.
To begin, the piece combines both nude and clothed dancers. The erotic effect of this quickly wears off and instead, the bodies of the dancers become the costumes. Watching every muscle tighten and release, and every breath gulped into their rib cages causes their bodies to become animalistic. The effect is captivating, and the lighting of the entire piece causes the surface lines of the body to look sculptural.

Set the Beethoven, each “movement” involves pairs or trios of dancers that repeat the same, or similar movements, sometimes synchronosly, and sometimes in a more rhythmic pattern. This mimics ocean waves, as well as the way animals tend to mirror one another. Periodically, the choreographer throws in something humorous that prevents these movements from becoming too stiff an distant from the audience. Inbetween are narrative type duet-dances that show the creatures interacting with one another, generally in a way that implies a mating ritual. The nudity of the dancers during these movements further suggests this. One small mall asks another to spin him around. A female tries to grab the ankle of a swimmer, only to find that she is left behind. These moments turn the dancers into characters, and each character is endearing and unique. When one of them goes belly up, it is a sad moment.

Most striking of all is the difficulty of this dance. Daniel Léveillé does this intentionally, stressing not gracefulness but impossible challenges. The moves are taken from a variety of styles, though yoga poses and a kind of kick boxing is evident. The dancers hurl themselves from one pose into the next, with beautiful wildness and violence. Their bodies slam against the stage with incredible toe-breaking force. It is impossible to maintain accuracy and this is part of the beauty of the whole piece. Life is a struggle in the wild. Only the strongest survive. Yet, even the strongest do not always finish in the same state in which they began. That is evidenced here, where the dance wears down each dancer. Imperfection is made beautiful here. The choreography is designed to be impossible and to push the limits of stamina.

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