The woman crouches upstage of a gleaming square of light, reaching to touch it. “Life is basically all memory,” a recorded voice says, “except for the present passing moment.” As soon as her extended hand reaches the ground, the light goes out.
This moment was a highlight from A Delicate Balance, the first piece performed at Induction, a performance series produced by Vancouver company EDAM (Experimental Dance and Music).
Since 1982, EDAM, under Artistic Director Peter Bingham, has pioneered the city’s contact improvisation, a form of contemporary dance that emphasizes weight and collaborative movement exchanged between partners.
Induction presented three new works by local choreographers Amber Funk Barton, Anne Cooper, Tom Shroud and Bingham himself. As the audience gathered at the warm, intimate EDAM space near the intersection of Main and Broadway, I noticed the casual coziness of the place, worn in by years of dancing and performance.
A Delicate Balance directed by Shroud and Bingham opened the show. The curtains open to reveal two women (Delia Brett and Elissa Hansen) standing against the back wall — their bodies strangely small and far away across the deep stage. The pair begin to interact, backs moving as if glued to the wall, facial expressions depicting emotions of all kinds, such as playfulness, rage, grief; at times they seem threatening to each other, then familiar. Recorded text begins speaking of memories and the split-self that occurs when one thinks of who they were in the past.
Brett and Hansen draw the audience into a fascinating world of memory. Their subtle, calculated gestures echo possibilities of larger movement phrases. On the recording, a soft woman’s voice recounts the layout of her parents’ house, taking us down twisting corridors of memory as the dancers move forward and backwards on invisible lines. The work is quiet yet profound, gesturing toward a bizarre land where old conversations and places cause us to question our present selves.
Cooper’s FormSongs was next and was described in the program as “an interaction of the forms of dance and music both composed and improvised.” In the work, Cooper and Kelly McInnes perform a duet to vocalizations by DB Boyko and recorded piano music. They spiral and sweep through the space, moving seamlessly into contact and away from each other again. At the same time, vocalist Boyko, seated on the right side of the stage in front of a microphone, vies for our attention with her whistles, lip trills, sighs and long sung notes accompanied by exaggerated hand gestures.
The work has a comedic and informal tone. Boyko’s full-bodied vocals are interspersed with random interjections, either commenting on Cooper’s dancing — “sometimes she reverses this” — or walking onto the stage herself to accentuate her hand gestures. Cooper’s recitation of the poem “Ode to the Lemon” finally pushes the piece past the possibility of cohesion, and the audience laughs in response. In some moments, sound and movement were perfectly matched: a low throat noise resonates as the dancers lean over bent knees with arms outstretched like falling birds. At other times the combination is fragmented and contradictory.
The final work in the show was Scenes for Your Consideration choreographed by Funk Barton with emerging dancers Elya Grant, Andrew Haydock and Antonio Somera Jr. The trio begins by creating a series of snapshot vignettes to a popular indie track by Grizzly Bear, opening and closing the exit doors, sitting on stools, looking away from and then back to each other. The abundance of stillness allowed the audience to create their own stories — love triangle, a tense argument or three playful friends. When they transition into dance movement, it is quirky and highlights the music, as well as filled with quick sections on the floor with repeating rolls and crumbling plank positions.
The soundtrack was a combination of five indie pop songs by artists Grizzly Bear, Deadalus, Animal Collective, Sonic Youth and Panda Bear, which informed the movement quality of each section. The way the dancers moved into and out of more formal choreography was unexpected and entertaining: they laugh themselves into a next formation; they witness an accident outside the window and jump back in horror; one dancer moulds the others into sculptures. The individual styles of the dancers became recognizable: Grant’s remarkably soft use of the floor and flexibility, Somera Jr.’s explosive quality with controlled poses and Haydock’s angular slices and shifts. The piece had a youthful energy that held my attention through many changes of focus, ending with a slow-dance duet that continues to switch partners until the lights eventually fade.