BRENDAN WYATT &
The current Danceworks production at Harbourfront is an intriguing and powerful piece of choreography that combines a variety of performance disciplines in order to create an eighty-five minute meditation on the uneven nature of love and physical interplay. The uneven nature of the theme however, seeps into the overall mise-en-scene, making for a frequently bewildering yet fascinating exploration of voice and movement.
Sasha Ivanochko both performs and choreographs the two connected pieces that comprise the evening. Her presence onstage is immediately engaging as she exhibits vivid facial and bodily expression. The first ten to fifteen minute section lags somewhat as the subtle, somewhat ponderous gestural movements take time to morph into an explosive mixture of physicality and staccato text.
Ivanochko’s environment for the piece includes an evocative backdrop by designer Trevor Schwellnus that, although an impressive and simple brick wall with painted signage, quickly becomes a rather static and naturalistic addition to an otherwise expressionistic piece. Similarly, the text, both spoken and sung, including excerpted citations to Ethel Merman and Patsy Cline, entices the audience with an idea of story that might have been further developed through the use of recorded sound in order to add another layer to what appears to be a rather inconsistent approach to dance theatre. Although a kind of stylistic inconsistency may be part and parcel of some multi-disciplinary experimentation, this production could use a little judicious trimming.
Ivanochko’s vocal abilities are very effective and pleasing throughout, and yet they bear an incongruous relationship to the rest of the piece, and might have been balanced by a more pervasive recorded soundscape, giving her a more condensed and integrated opportunity in which to explore the physical nuances of the work. The highlight of the first section occurs during an extremely visceral moment that combines both physical and vocal agility, revealing Ivanochko’s impressive and graceful ability to defy gravity with her lower body while she lies onstage and emits Patti Smith-like song stylings into a prostrate microphone. In her program notes she asks her audience to bear witness to an exploration of “the pleasure/pain” reflex” and to “play a role” in the proceedings by taking “what you wish from the story (or stories).” Her desire to explore these areas through a combination of dance and spoken narrative has prompted a surprising mixture of citational movement and sound, ranging from Broadway divas to country music icons, ultimately creating a very contrasting and unexpected mixture of styles.
The second half of the evening brings the male counterpart to Ivanochko’s emotional journey onstage. Brendan Wyatt’s presence gives the choreographer the opportunity to produce even more explosive images for a dancer able to create ballet-like, gestural performance that frequently explodes into extreme physical aggression. Wyatt’s expertise with this range of styles, and the coupling between him and Ivanochko, makes for a number of memorable, heart wrenching moments where the duo engage in loving equations that end in total physical collapse.
Overall, the evening provides a series of very guttural and beautiful testaments to romantic interaction as it is played out within a highly theatrical environment that playfully flirts with the idea of performer as diva through the use of an onstage microphone that becomes a literal metaphor for frequently comic emotional bravado. A more condensed version, with the use of projections and a stronger, less intermittent soundscape, could move the piece into a fully integrated, less uneven atmosphere for what the artist has called The Future Memory Heartbreak Junction, Diptych - an entertaining and evocative coupling that might benefit by becoming a single panel for two dancers.