Out Innerspace Dance Theatre Brings Halifax a cinematic experience with “Major Motion Picture”

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So. I just got home from the Major Motion Picture experience. Here I sit after having my nightly fill of (really) random videos on Facebook, you know the ones, dogs acting as swiffer brooms (WHY DO I WATCH THESE THINGS?) I’m sitting here next to my partner, the blips and whirs from a video game assaulting me as I try to write. Amidst the distractions I sit letting the experience sink in.

Out Innerspace has created a show so tangibly relevant to our times that it reaches out to grab you in your seat. My friend Vivika and I sit in the car happy to be out of the cold letting the show wash over us. As I search for the aux cord ready to belt some tunes, Vivika comments on the jarred piecemeal of the show we’ve just seen. “It was like watching a videogame” I pause. Ooooooohhhh, yeeaaaahhhh….. As a trained dancer, I often search for the focal point. I look for the nuances and let my eye go where the choreographer leads it.  I felt lost at points, do I watch the light? The dancers? The smoke filled room; do I take in the atmosphere? At times I had to let my vision blur and sit back into the seat to just soak it all in. Vivika’s statement solidified the real nuance of the show. Our times are constructed by media, seeping into almost every minute of our lives; Facebook, what’s that? Google it! Check your email check your phone, snapchat, Twitter…….Much like our media saturated lives, the show delivered so many symbols simultaneously and really played to that sensational side of our brains that are sorting through the JPMs (jolts per minute) for meaning.

Projection, set design, incredible sound and light engineering by their creative team (Craig Alfredson, James Proudfoot, and  Kat De Lorme) all came together to serve the back drop for a turf war between the dancers living on stage and the “others”. There was incredibly athletic dancing peppered throughout but most appealing to me was the company’s ability to innovate movement allowing the genious of contemporary dance to shine through for its ability to speak to an issue without the restriction of narrative. One very strong moment was when the conflict became internal and there was dissonance among those who capitalized in the light. Simply choreographed, the group was divided and tried convincing their counterparts to their side. The quick decisive darts from one side to the other and the ability to use their movement as a felt language made this scene extremely effective. Later as one rebellious citizen is enveloped by hands, the theme of influence through control becomes hauntingly clear.

Control, identity, the self and other, propaganda; these are just some of the themes that you may pick up on as you watch Major Moton Picture. Stark images of the instigator or the “master of ceremonies” (as David Raymond describes him), had me delighted by the ingenuity of three dancers playing one character in a jacket. A Cheshire Cat style face formed by the limbs of dancers with a booming voice and creepy behind the scenes video of lurking figures all make for a dance show that watches like a horror film. The light includes the audience in exciting ways, sirens blaring, projections moved around the room, creating exciting transitions while contributing to the atmosphere. The mystery of various embellishments drew my technical brain in, catapulting from one place to the next so that I had to catch my breath at Intermission!

 

outinnerspacemmp         Out Innerspace in Major Motion Picture Photo Courtesy of Live Art Dance

Really, I could’ve watched the show for another hour to dissect all of the pieces, learn more about the two opposing worlds and witness the development and dissemination of conflict. In some ways I wished it reflected a Quentin Tarantino film, (which I have no doubt they could achieve) starting from the end or the middle and going outwards from there slowly revealing a plot riddled with action throughout.

As the “Others” crept further into the desired territory, a wall of projections acting as turf boundaries, the switch between embodiments was beautifully played. In one scene, the others are circling, sliding across the floor every one revolution, a felt statement happened then. It seemed, though Tiffany Tregarthen revealed in the talk back feeling the opposite, the dancers resonated more with the underdog character. Masks provided a mysterious shroud requiring more attention throughout the core and limbs of the dancers that I felt I missed in the first half.

Duets between all of the dancers showcased the true physical talent of each, co-artistic directors Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond as well as the other five dancers: Laura Avery, Renee Sigouin, Elissa Hanson, Arash Khakpour and Ralph Escamillan. Throughout the work they employed humour in movement, one such moment appeared in their urban contemporary dance styled duets when two brawled into exhaustion ending their piece in a moment reminiscent of two buddies stumbling home from the bar.

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Tiffany Tregarthen in Major Motion Picture Photo Courtesy of: Live Art Dance

As the show came to an end the audience was treated with a solo danced by Tregarthen in an ever so eloquently danced twist. Her attention to detail allowed the audience to really lean into the movement, kinetic empathy in full force. Another burst of innovative creativity as she wielded her hands and feet into different characters helping to sum up the whole production. Tregarthen ends shrouded in light centre stage, fading to black.

On Fridays, artists and audience are invited to stay and talk about the work. It was then that real goosebumps started to appear. I adore our Halifax audience. Commonly known for our tradesmen and lumber sexual tendencies, stereotypes were squashed when the audience had a chance to speak. One gentleman praised the company for their open narrative and for being able to watch the show with an absence of guidance towards a fine tuned storyline. Another was captivated by the incorporation of a security camera to help set up the second half. Another audience member talked of the good and the bad, how her perception changed of the two over the length of the show and she flip flopped over which side she would care to win out. To this Tregarthen sincerely opened up about their process and her feeling that by circumstance it was almost impossible to be good as a western citizen. One more viewer had a clear cut designation for each character relating them to political events as of late. We all had to applaud at his passion and creative associations.

And with that, we broke out into the cold, our minds whirring, letting the many elements of the performance sink in. Given the autonomy as an audience member while relating to various current issues was truly a treat seen rarely, and dare I say, almost never in the world of contemporary dance. I believe Out Innerspace is beginning to chart new territory and could very well be the tremor that instigates a new movement for dance in Canada. I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing what they dream up next!