Saturday, February 28, 2015


Sylvain Émard Danse

Ce n’est pas la fin du monde 
(It’s not the end of the world)

Imagine snippets of Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo, meets the gang in West Side Story, meets an episode of the current HBO series Looking on a stormy night in an unspecified locale - replete with an original score by Martin Tetreault, powerfully eclectic choreography by Sylvain Emard, and ready to wear butch/casual costumes by Denis Lavoie. 

The current Danceworks offering, as part of the Harbourfront Next Steps series, is a sixty minute tour de force giving spectators seven male dancers on a stark, beautifully lit stage (lighting by Andre Rioux) as they explore varied movement and layered camaraderie with full and furious abandon, elegant finesse, and sprigs of titillating tease.    
There is a moment near the beginning of the piece when a perhaps unconsciously citational choreographic gesture references a brief moment of equine movement as the septet of casually dressed men gallop across the stage in a line that is at once humourous, celebratory, and hilariously horsey. This fleeting segment re-occurs in varied form as moments of pure whimsy and physical play surface in the midst of other less referential acts that excel with absolute precision, skill, and narrative gravitas. 
There are complex solo, dual, and group turns that defy the gravity of limbs through an array of beautifully enigmatic flexibility. One dancer takes centre stage at one point, in a gorgeous block of glaring light, gesticulating his way in and out of forceful fanciful moving vignettes of physical prowess - ultimately taking him out of the light, and yet somehow retaining the illuminating qualities he has just shared within this box of breathtaking agility and nuance. We follow his body into the shadows while light still stands as the former site of his absorbing presence.

And when these seven men come together in a line, fleeing in unison toward the edge of the stage from a series of complex couplings, they do so with such  convincing choreographic acumen, speed, and commitment that their relationships defy specific definitional import. But the intimation of same sex coupling is still there, and becomes, within a split second of physical connection - the movement of one arm or the twist and turn of a leg toward a partners masculine connective muscle and tissue - a magical and everyday realm of male bonding that resists any specific form of sexuality. Like run-on sentences, they never end, making simultaneous sense and 'non' sense in a single choreographic clause.
The deceptively absorbing choice of casual clothing by Denis Lavoie, at times colourful and evocative - and only slightly distracting - emerges as legs and torsos are draped in the non defining lines of somewhat loose shirts and relatively shapeless trousers. This allows body parts to fade subtly into disheveled shrouds of non sinewy, body moulding raiment. One may long for tightly defined contours that move with titillating force through the soundscape and the diverse choreography. And yet, ultimately, Lavoie's somewhat 'fashion'less' choice highlights the ordinary aspect of a masculine ensemble arranged in unselfconscious daywear, giving them the opportunity  to simply breathe life into what Danceworks curator Mimi Beck (program note) refers to as a “focus on seven male dancers navigating a world of unremitting demands.” 

Facing themselves, each other, and their audience with “total commitment, immense power, and absolute grace [through] frantic gestures, heartfelt solos, and supportive partnering” (program) renders the overall experience a brilliant and engaging hour of provocative and compelling dance that, like its title, re-assures the viewer over and over again, with compelingly gendered prowess, that this is not the end of the world. 

"Québec’s award-winning choreographer, Sylvain Émard of Sylvain Émard Danse, brings the critically acclaimed Ce n’est pas la fin du monde (It’s not the end of the world) featuring seven male dancers in a ritual of resistance and adaptation to the passing of time. Driven by doubt and a lust for life, they are searching for their place, sketching the contours of multiple identities. Carried away by their instincts and the power of the group, their only language is subtle, energetic movement, the music of bodies electrified by a shared feeling of urgency. Dance seems to be the best means of coming to terms with the world and of being transformed, the better to blend in. Says Émard 'If, as Madame de Staël wrote, ‘the pagans have deified life’, then this is pagan dance.' "

DanceWorks presents Sylvain Émard Danse’s
Ce n’est pas la fin du monde
as part of Harbourfront Centre’s NextSteps
Choreographed by Sylvain Émard

 Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 8pm

Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON M5J 1A7
 Tickets: $28 - $37 Adult; $15 CultureBreak (under 25); Discounts for seniors, students and groups.

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