This is one of three reviews of Festival Quartiers Danses, which animates Montréal annually with performances and events in theatres and public spaces and took place this year from September 5 to 15, 2018.
The unseen and unspoken are themes that echo through a double bill with works by Janelle Hacault and Jane Mappin at Festival Quartiers Danses.
Shapeshifters, by Montréal-based choreographer Hacault, is an impeccably articulated, endearing and at times unapologetically kitschy work that morphs seamlessly from dream to nightmare and back again. A giant yellow plush lion floats in and out throughout the piece, animated by three dancers, inviting us into a world that is both childlike and explosive. As the choreography unfolds, the four dancers move in and out of sequences, during which they each seem tangled in their inner lives — sometimes demonic and other times playful.
Kyra Jean Green and Jee Lam perform a memorable duet in which they alternatingly hold each other up only to slip through the other’s arms, capturing the desperation of trying to help someone while being unable to stand on your own two feet. In another section, the performers mime the lyrics in Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors. The result is purposefully devoid of emotion. It mocks Lauper’s call to reveal our true selves, acknowledging that such a revelation would leave us helplessly exposed to each other’s tender inner worlds — dreams and nightmares included.
The same evening, Montréal’s Jane Mappin, a veteran of the festival, presented two works, SILK and IAmWeAreOne (2). In SILK, Mappin addresses the impact of time and change on human lives. The movements are fluid and clean, with a rigid formalism that exaggerates the dancers’ expressiveness. As the four, Mappin, Louis-Martin Charest, Daniel Firth and Alisia Pobega, cut through the space in intricate sequences, they frame and echo one another’s trajectories, curves and lines. The effect is harmoniously steady, evoking a ritualistic collective energy that floats just above reality. As the piece progresses, elegant lifts, dramatic turns and controlled balances leave me wondering what, if anything, has transformed in this portrait of time passing.
IAmWeAreOne (2) shared the sense of ritual and collectivity of SILK, and little else. Full of sincerity and joy, this work was defined by the voices of the dancers with whom it was created — most of whom suffer from various physical and mental afflictions such as chronic pain, schizophrenia or partial paralysis. At times the symmetry of the staging contrasted awkwardly with the flowing gestural movements but, ultimately, the movement and the moment belonged to the performers entirely. The variety in their movements and the generosity with which they presented themselves lay bare their struggles as much as their love of dance. It was honest and arresting.
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