Written by: Cassy Oberndorf
Edited by: Larissa Duff-Grant
Twelve @ Goldcorp Centre for the Arts // Simon Fraser University, 26 February 2015 – 28 February 2015.
On February 27th, I attended a student production put on at SFU Woodwards entitled Twelve. The production was a collective work of twelve separate pieces choreographed and designed by SFU contemporary dance students in their fourth year at the university. By having each piece choreographed by a different artist, each performance was vastly different than the next which created a pleasingly diverse aesthetic throughout the show. This show was a great example of the student collaboration and collision of mediums that tend to happen at SFU student performances. Not only did Twelve have dance pieces, one of which with original composed music, it also featured two film works, all of which focused on studying movement. And as with any multi-pieced performance showcase, some works stood out and shone more than others.
The show was kicked off by a film featuring two dancers interacting with themselves through a mirror and each other. The filming was done exclusively with the camera straight along the line of sight of a mirror in a dance studio. This perspective gave off the illusion that there were four rather than two dancers in the room, with the dancers paced one in front of the other to create a depth and layering of movement. Although the film was a bit tedious at times due to engrossed repetition, it grew into a real noteworthy work when the focus on the camera became blurred and the movements of the dancers began to interact and collide with one another. The shifting out of focus gave the end of the film a Rorschach effect, giving the audience a range of perspectives, which set the ground nicely for the overlying theme of inner and outer perspective throughout the rest of the show.
The second performance in the show, entitled 4females, was also one of the strongest out of the twelve in my opinion as it really utilized lighting as a part of the overall aesthetic and presentation of the piece. The choreographer, Mahaila Patterson-O’Brien, worked very closely with fellow SFU student Remy Siu in the creation of this work as he composed the original music and created custom lighting. I was informed after the show by a dancer in 4females that Patterson-O’Brien had choreographed the dance with the intention of the lighting being just as much a part of the performance as the dancing, and this really came across cohesively and beautifully.
Rachel Helten also gave a very memorable performance in her self-performed and choreographed piece entitled The Cloak of our Shadow. By utilizing an audio clip of Jim Morrison’s spoken word poem, “All Hail the American Night”, Helten created what I would classify as a collision of theatre and dance. She conveyed a spectrum of emotions, interacted with props, gave a monologue and lip-synced to Jim’s poetry, all while still moving within her space as a dancer. The piece was compelling and different, however I did feel that is was a tad drawn out and I felt as though Helten had created a masterpiece but then kept pushing it to its limits and in my opinion pushed parts a bit over a breaking point of redundancy near the end. I feel as though if a prop had been omitted and a few details had been held back, it could have been a truly wonderful piece, although I did nonetheless quite enjoy what I saw.
Muscularis was the ninth piece in Twelve and based on speaking with one of the artistic directors, it was a favourite of many of the dancers involved in the show as well. The piece focused on human architecture, particularity stimulating perspectives on the movements and aesthetics of the human body. It was conceptually challenging and visually stimulating as the choreographer, Megan Friesan, focused on the movements of her two dancer’s backs. Through the process of exquisite lighting techniques and the technical beauty of the dancers, Anna Dueck and Alison Fudger, as well as the well thought out choreography, Muscularis was hauntingly beautiful and successfully caused its audience to double take in the best of ways.
In the final solo performance, Emily Loski danced in her piece Beneath The Diamond Sky. The dance was improvised and was performed to Leonard Cohen’s “1000 Kisses Deep”. It was hugely emotional and simply stunning. I found it significant that Loski didn’t have her eyes open most of the time, giving her the appearance of distance, grace and ease. I did not know that Loski had improvised the piece until after viewing it, but that just added to my amazement, it was clever and was matching in Cohen’s play on words style of poetry. I do wish that the fact that the dance had been improvised was included in the brochure in some way because I found out by speaking with some of the dancers in the show, which made it very exclusive knowledge that I feel should have been shared.
Twelve came to a strong close with a final piece choreographed by Desi Rekrut and included thirteen dancers, which is a lot for a student choreography piece. True to his previously established form, Rekrut challenged his dancers with a complex, fast paced, athletic piece that pushed his work out of the box of the typically reserved and finite movements showcased in SFU dance shows. It was a grand finale to the show, a show that gave its audience a glimpse into the artistic abilities of SFU’s dance and production students alike. Twelve was a stunning show, with each piece finding ground to stand with its own strengths with still exemplifying the cohesive creation of a theme of searching for meaning within movement. It’s not hard to think that some of the individuals who participated in this showcase will be the ones to watch over the next few years once this class of dancers sets out into the world from SFU this June.