Eight Ways From Mara, Zata Omm’s current dance project, being presented at the Enwave Theatre (Harbourfront) until October 23rd, is an ambitious seventy-minute tour de force led by dancer/choreographer William Yong. What begins as a rather stark, somewhat bewildering mélange of physicality that plays with daily bodily rhythms from group walking and running to human sculptural tableaus, gradually moves into a glorious and meticulous series of tableau vivant come to life. About ten to fifteen minutes into the evening, once the somewhat plodding introduction has ended, a flurry of activity emerges that thoroughly engages the audience through an eclectically philosophical and technically infused narrative.
Concise, perfectly blended textual moments by Hume Baugh mix seamlessly with complex and intricate lighting design by Rebecca Picherak, and large evocative video performance and imagery from Elysha Poirier. There is a cool vivacious energy that runs throughout and treats spectators to a Beckett like search for truth and wisdom. By turning ideas of ‘God’ and spiritual truth into a frequently joyful canine love story, Yong gives us a non-linear narrative as comical and as poignant as a classic Lassie tale.
Andrea Rocca’s eclectic soundscapes - ranging from techno-fied Barry White moments, to an eerie and whimsical piece reminiscent of big band staples such as Sing Sing Sing and Big Noise from Winnetka - enliven the final sections with a tremendous form of original pastiche that brings the evening to a subtle and circular finale. The ending, however, is needlessly reminiscent of an introductory group pose that might have been reconsidered as a time consuming, unengaged, and superfluous framing device that doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the onstage action. Nevertheless, the overall experience, inspired by Eastern Philosophy’s use of Mara, the demon of temptation, creates beautiful images throughout, and offers a gorgeous same sex coupling, a fabulous ensemble bathing suit sequence, as well as a brilliant solo by William Yong.
Yong’s solo highlights the dancer’s willowy agility, and reveals his approach to the body as a fabulous receptacle for unexpected physical contortions. Yong has the ability to produce the startling effect of great simplicity, power, and impeccable timing in each fluid movement. Likewise, dancers Heather Berry-MacPhail, Kate Franklin, Erika Leigh- Howard, and Nicholas Melymuk execute the same kind of willowy grace and muscularity that Yong creates in his solo. This tightly conceived physical thread produces a truly collaborative effort that gives Yong’s choreography an exciting gender blurred motif, defying divisions between masculinity and femininity, and placing the dancers in single and group settings that defy traditional roles. This allows for the two men and three women to create a kind of loves labors gained storyline that effectively evokes powerful and graceful images addressing a rapidfire progression in contemporary culture that subtly, yet radically alters the nature of temptation, desire, and the ways in which we interact with mediums that are simultaneously spiritual, romantic, and technological.