Halifax’s Innovative New Works

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Lisa Phinney Langley and Jacinte Armstrong were featured in Live Art’s latest production at the Sir James Dunn theatre last weekend. Proudly donning the stage with New Works premiered for Halifax eyes only; the duo were well matched to share the evening.

“I Chart” was strung together by semiotic gesture, personal story telling and mathematics culminating in a striking solo performed by Armstrong. Choreographed by Sara Chase the work was heavy in process, however the more mysterious parts were clearly defined for the audience. Jacinte’s unshakeable performance ability shone through as she spoke directly to us. Delivering lines is not typically an innate talent for a dancer however she did so with charm (not too much), humility and regard for the work.

The arc of “I Chart” flowed well from one sequence to the next and was quite down to Earth; I enjoyed being able to nestle into the work like a good novel. Jacinte’s anecdotes offered humour, nostalgia and finally a somber irony that prompted empathy towards not only the dancer, but the person, standing on stage before us. The tone of the piece was kept very natural and personal making me as an audience member feel welcomed as if sitting by a warm fire on a chilly night.

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Concept by Sarah Chase, graphic design by Jeff Wheaton

 

Arm gestures performed in combination with her leg movements mesmerized the audience. Simplicity abounded though Armstrong’s mathematical chore was complex. I found beauty in the repetition and slight changes noticed as images popped into my head, prompted by her earlier explanation. Armstrong glided from one simple sweep of a gesture to the next, leading into more and more variation in the pattern. The piece came to a head as a soundtrack floated through the theatre; a very familiar song performed by the recording of a bass clarinet, complimenting the earlier carefully chosen reverberated mood. Under the light as arms swept and flitted through the space, trails left behind allowed for even more warmth and personality.

During intermission, I was struck by the plethora of people I knew at the dance show. And not the usual dance crowd either. A few musicians I knew had come out and even a dancer from New Brunswick had arrived just in time for the show. It’s a wonderful thing to realize one day that you’ve created memories with such a diverse range of talented people whether in art, or just in everyday interaction.

Which leads us into Lisa Phinney Langley’s piece Entangled. Her work performed by Gillian Seaward-Boone and Andrew Turner was an exploration of the Quantum Entanglement theory and how it relates to the relationship of two people. As we entered back into the theatre we were welcomed by a stage filled with accoutrements and two dancers at odds with one another. As many of us have experienced, being with a partner is not easy and daily compromises were interpreted readily by the argument ensuing between the two.

The theory, complex in nature especially for someone without a science background was explained many times in different ways throughout the beginning of the work. The various explanatory elements skirted on the Dadaist tradition with rejection of form and reason. At times, if not carefully paying attention one could lose track quickly.

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Courtesy of Live Art Dance Photo by Scott Munn

 

The progression of the piece proved significantly more aesthetic in quality and transformed from scientific theory to romantic wistfulness. Lighting and sound replaced props on stage to create various angles from which to view the stages of entanglement.

The addition of flashlights as props was a beautiful element of choreography extending past the body itself. I love seeing new ways to create movement and imagery with simple tasks. The two lights flitted around each other in what one would imagine the process of two particles becoming entangled. The simplicity of the image really drew me in. Another moment that stands out for me is when Turner and Seaward-Boone were shrouded in the spotlight where Turner was explaining the randomness of it all, Gillian would execute seemingly random movements and stop to reveal a seemingly random moment in time by a (very) sophisticated version of dance and freeze.

The length and complexity of the choreography provided some moving moments, while proving the rigour of the work. Dancers Seaward-Boone and Turner expertly performed multiple layers of athletic feats, using the stage with ease, as if they were 7 year olds unleashed on a playground expertly darting through one another, play fighting and rambunctiously giving their weight to each other. As the piece came to a head, so did the power struggle. The comparison of relationship entanglement to Quantum Entanglement was a helpful and very poetic lens from which to see the equation.

In all, the show featuring two new works by local artists was captivating. The works were related in their heady processes and I wonder what each would be like without any explanatory dialogue? It was certainly a surprise that both works were so explicit of their process. Is this a new trend in dance? I’ve always been a believer in trying to find new ways to connect the mindset of the choreographer with the audience; inviting them in rather than allowing the mystery to shroud, leaving attendees confused as to what it all means. I applaud the choreographers and performers for their ability to create movement along a single theme and allow the viewer the chance to relate with it. As always, I’m proud of the innovation we are so free to create here in our small city.