A creative meeting of minds can provide for some dynamic moments. And yet when two choreographers come together to invent new movement vocabulary, anything can happen, including the diluting of their individual insights and distinctive choreographic stamp. Happily, the collaboration between Harold Rhéaume, of the Quebec City-based Le fils d’Adrien danse, and France’s Yvann Alexandre, of Compagnie Yvann Alexandre from the Loire region, is both intriguing and alive. In the triptych of works titled Jumeaux (Twins), the choreographers wisely decided to first introduce audiences to one of their own new and newish works and then offer a combined mashup.
“L’autre”, the latest piece by Rhéaume, with three performers (Marilou Castonguay, Alan Lake and Arielle Warnke St-Pierre), takes place on the bare rectangular-sized stage of the Place des Arts’ Cinquième Salle. At the start of the show, two dimly lit shafts of light are cast on Lake – the effect is atmospheric and suggestive, drawing us into an internal and isolated perspective. The dancer performs in silence, low to the ground, crouching, rolling, circling and dragging with his legs extended, gaining support from one arm.
Slowly the two women materialize from the shadows and the lighting encompasses them in an embrace that again suggests a quiet intimacy. The women are separate entities but their intense interaction doesn’t come from a physically dynamic place: instead, it’s defined by their gaze and the energy that is created by the space between them. Lake is in this mix as well, but he is a secondary figure at this point, continuing to work low to the ground, almost hovering between the women, while the focus remains on the female dancers and their impulses.
At the core of “L’autre” is designer Lucie Bazzo’s masterful sense of light, framing the space and giving breath to the dance. With a canny touch, the lighting seems timed in sections to ripple across the stage. Working with a restrained palette of colour, Bazzo evokes mood beautifully and simply, and the results left me spellbound.
Meanings flow, especially as one dancer remains in the light, while another passes gently into the nearby darkness; there is a pull between them, communicating something that feels more like ego and alter-ego, or two sides of the same being, and there is rupture. Rhéaume’s easy command and quiet assurance in shaping lightness to the articulations and movements is a constant pleasure. It’s not pedestrian movement, nor is it vigorous in terms of endurance or prowess, or based on big gestures, but the dance has an abstract quality and an unlaboured organic flow. A collaged electronic score (by Antoine Caron, Guillaume Lizotte and Pascal L. Asselin), filled with fragments of sampled sounds and electronica flourishes, complements the dance.
Alexandre’s “Homogène Duo”, first presented in Avignon in 2009, also offers a distinctive lighting design (by Olivier Blouin), with a dark and murky red emanating close to the ground. At first the number of dancers is unclear, and what seems to be a barely visible cluster of bodies arouses curiosity. In fact, only two dancers (Kevin Bruneel and Guillaume Chevereau) are on stage, but at a distance and in the atmospheric lighting, their sex is uncertain. Dressed in fitted body leotards and tightly woven mesh head masks (eventually the masks come off), they perform unison movements that are calibrated and almost hypnotically paced.
Again, the mirroring or duality theme returns in this piece, though the atmosphere feels gloomier. The electronic soundtrack (by Christophe Satori) evokes an erupting terrain, the ground cracking and crumbling, separating in an unstoppable cataclysm. The pastiche score starts off rumbling but becomes raucous, filled with full-blast screeching and occasional spaces of silence, while the movements also become more intense and thoroughly man-centric. The robust pairing is a contest, and as in Rhéaume’s “L’Autre” seems to reflect the separation with the self, rather than any seductive or sexual revelation. The piece is too long, and several endings pass unabated.
The final fusion of choreographic talent in “Les Fractions”, performed by Alexandre’s dancers Anthony Cazaux and Claire Pidoux, and by Lake and Warnke St-Pierre from Rhéaume’s group, is highly reflective of the themes presented in the earlier works.
Dressed in all-black outfits of underwear and jerseys (by designer Philippe Dubuc), the quick and alert, disciplined quartet of dancers operate in their own perimeters, at first simply in the presence of the Other, never interacting or connecting physically or emotionally. The textural finesse of the movements Rhéaume and Alexandre have knitted together is rich and dense, with the eventual duos providing a more seductive quotient than was seen in the other works on the program, flirting in a fleeting way with the homoerotic, particularly in the male partnering.
Apparently Rhéaume and Alexandre embraced this hybrid project, and the togetherness angle of the partnership works well. There’s no major stylistic divide between them, and “Les Fractions” is no hodgepodge, though the two men are hardly interchangeable dancemakers. Rhéaume seems to have restrained Alexandre’s more expansive impulses, which is a good thing, and there’s more playfulness, with a sense of two imaginations working at the same time.
Whereas Rhéaume constructs in an unfussy way and Alexandre with more complicated vigor, the economy of the choreography, and its repetition, serves both well. “Les Fractions” provides an altered, wiser perspective than the first two works, and a rare equilibrium: without resorting to histrionics, it employs fastidious and swift movements, balanced with slow articulations in other sections.
Jumeaux is an evening of layered references and meanings that I’m hard-pressed to fully understand, but there is a sense of discovery in this partnership that leaves me wanting more.
Edited by Kaija Pepper