Friday, November 22, 2019


JDdance (Toronto)

presented by
IN ABSENTIA, conceived, choreographed, directed and written by Sharon B. Moore is a fantasia-like, bleak yet lively, frequently carnivalesque sixty-minute romp through a landscape that simultaneously conjures the desperate streets of inner city homelessness as well as a kind of rodeo of emotions ranging from high hilarity to cut throat clamouring, almost clownish camaraderie. 

The setting suggests a metaphor to difficult times, and although a program note explains that the story begins with two women "preparing for an elegant night out" but thwarted by a sudden storm, the storm seems more of an urban nightmare populated by an assortment of dancercise clad characters trying to survive within a tumultuous cardboard environment backed by extremely evocative  projections that create a harrowing reflective 'climate' for the overall experience to weather itself out within.

The environment these eight fantastical creatures inhabit solely consists of elaborately joined huge cardboard setpeices that become abstract platforms, screens, and at times a  series of glassless oval mirrors the dancers move through as these flimsy looking glass-like props collapse effectively like a fan of effectively floppy buckling dominoes. 

It is all a touch Alice In Wonderland gone terribly wrong, yet wildly entertaining as two tiny skeletons, through the use of expertly manipulated onstage cameras, have touching and conflicted escapades projected upon cardboard screens. Versatile dancer-puppeteers leave to frolic/dance from time to time, treating spectators to a mysterious world of dead entities and struggling creatures as they make their respective journeys through one world toward another.

There is plenty of high spirited entertainment value and some intricate choreography to attract the eye, but the story gets somewhat lost, especially considering that the spoken elements are often difficult to hear clearly, lending little evidence that the characters are in fact the very specific people they are listed as in the program. Ranging from a "Seahorse commander of inter-realms" to a "Naked man with gigantic wings & camera eye" (I didn't notice any explicit nudity and I am not one to overlook such a thing) and a "Woman with strategic and seductive ways" the costumes, although flashy and seductive, do not delineate these intriguing types in any obvious fashion.

Nevertheless, a very skilled ensemble, working hard to seamlessly maneuver the mammoth and versatile cardboard set pieces, and dancing through in varied intervals - from combative deceptively elegant free-for-alls to slight sombre meditative moments - ultimately create an intricate sense of chaos and camaraderie. A high energy cabaret segment reveals each dancers ability to move within the ensemble and display individual aplomb through engaging and witty characterization.

Nearing the end of an hour that, due to some seemingly repetitive sections, might have been more complete if cut by fifteen to twenty minutes, the overall narrative comes together the mesmerizing sand dynamic skeletal duo rise up, draped upon on disco balls, providing slight comic undertones. Like Grizabella in CATS these boney 'puppets' deliver an eloquent finale for this unique play of dance, theatre, sublimely macabre puppetry and powerful projections. 

IN ABSENTIA is a complex story - elaborately conceived via cleverly designed cardboard chaos and infused with  a sense of urban mayhem and crafty streetwise manipulation.


1 comment:

  1. Very talented & dedicated dancers thru this evocative romp.....should have a MUCH longer run.....creative complexity with expertly executed mediums to ad lustre to the performance. BRAVO!