Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Sylvain Emard’s recent Danceworks presentation of Fragments - Volume I was a brilliant and diverse evening of movement that ranged from athletic solos beginning with an upside down body straddling a chair, pure gestural movement that featured the idea of actor as dancer, and a gorgeous same sex duet that ended the evening with acute and engaging characterization.

The only weak moment in the program occurred in the second piece, Emoi, emoi, and was caused by a disarming pair of track pants that distracted the eye away from an otherwise beautifully rendered solo that was filled with tremendous grace and precision by Catherine Viau. Viau’s upper body was adorned by a skin tight near animal-like print that allowed the movement to soar, and yet the lower portion was a constant and unsuitable contrast, cloaking the hips and legs in a rather dull, block of shapeless, unsculpted fabric. Poetic program notes by Carol Anderson illuminated the piece yet gave no hint as to why “the liquid physicality of long phrases . . . interspersed with quizzical, flailing motions, and spiked with spiraling gestures that wrap her torso and send her skimming, crawling, leaping, through space” would require dark baggy trousers and white stripes down the side of the dancers legs. This was costume malfunction at its most bewildering.

The opening piece, Dans mon jardin, was a powerful exercise in athletic fluidity as Manuel Roque framed a series of “compulsive rhythm and spasmodic flurries of movement” with a departure from and return to his chair with a seamless agility.

Roque was paired with Laurence Ramsay for the final segment in Bicéphale (two-headed) for an intricately rendered, at times breathtakingly poignant and powerful duet that was at once, violent, sensual, and syncopated with an enormous sense of characterization on the part of Roque. His face, without over acting, managed to complement every movement with an engaging sense of overall body narrative, from head to two. Laurence Ramsay’s physical movement was equal to his partners, but his sense of character was no match for the raw yet subtle plasticity of Roque’s intricate gestural narrative.

At times modern dance can rely upon a neutrality of facial expression as a way of letting the body take over. This was certainly not the case with Roque’s performance, and his ability to emote in a fluid and utterly engaging manner connects directly to perhaps the highlight of the evening. Monique Miller, a film, stage, and television veteran, rendered the third offering of the evening with magnificent precision, giving the overall piece, entitled Absence, a gorgeous fluidity that inhabited every part of her body. In a year when a silent film took all of the major awards at the Oscars, Miller’s performance was a grand, elegant testament to how the highly skilled acting body can speak multitudes without uttering a word. Emard’s beautifully diverse choreography gave Miller the opportunity to act her way through music and movement that, as Carol Anderson so poetically expressed in her notes, speaks of “engulfing heartache” reaching out for “gentle company, romance” that is “punctuated by silences, by a sense of hauntings in old dance steps, old jazz tunes, a bass line’s throb.”

Fragments - Volume 1 was a diverse and enthralling evening, attesting to Sylvain’s Emard’s over-riding desire to “develop dance that is anchored in everyday life, without losing its poetry . . . to concentrate on what is at the very heart of life in our society.”


ran at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre for one night only, March 3rd, 2012

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