Thursday, February 17, 2005

Write Dance~~~~Dance Write

Last week I participated in a collaborative project involving Theatre La Chapelle here in Montreal, more than a dozen writers, including fellow members of the Quebec Writer's Federation, and the Dance troupe Platform 33. La Chapelle sent out the call for writers to watch Platform 33 practice and put on a dress rehearsal of a dance performance, and use the experience as a point of departure for literary creation. Writes Richard Simas, director of La Chapelle, "the heart of the project is using the dance to inspire creative, parallel texts that venture far from an immediate, journalistic description of what is going on. The project is not about writing a critical evaluation of the pieces or the dancers." As he said to us in a reception before the first practice, the world has a surfeit of description (video, print journalism, etc.); he is more interested in the imaginative, lyrical, archetypal if you will…

Platform 33 consists of three women, Julia Aplin (at the present time replaced by Linnea Swan), Shannon Cooney and Susan Elliott, top-ranked contemporary dancers who joined together and commissioned the choreographers Damian Muñoz (Barcelona, Spain), Louise Bédard (Montreal, Canada) and Kim Itoh (Tokyo, Japan) to compose three linked works, or rather works with common musical/verbal elements (Hence the name Platform 33 -- three dancers, three works).

The performance of these works will take place in Toronto's Harbourfront (next March), in Montreal's La Chapelle (this fall), and elsewhere (as yet to be determined). Our own creations will be performed in readings after the performances, and perhaps travel with them in some form (pamphlets, wall displays) as well as appearing on Theatre La Chapelle's website (will keep you posted).

For me the collaboration was a marvellous experience. Peculiar though it was sitting in the half empty theatre with other members of the audience scribbling sporadically in the dark, I couldn't have found myself among more compatible company, indeed made friends with a couple of fellow writers... perhaps these friendships will be lasting. As for the dance pieces, I enjoyed them all, and the performances were superb. The three dancers complemented each other well personally as well as physically: one elegant and aloof, another sultry and athletic, and the third, wildly comic and vivacious - and the three pieces, although conceived independently, had the complete feeling of a three-movement concerto.

Much contemporary ballet/dance that I have seen (like contemporary poetry, like the other contemporary "fine arts") expresses considerable loneliness, tenuousness (in terms of relationships and contact) and desperation, and from the first practice, these pieces proved no exception. Dancers dancing separately in their own spotlights, joining briefly, then torn apart by their own centrifugal momentum… I conceived a poem very early about being trapped in a circle of light, limbs pushing out everywhere with tremendous energy, but essentially alone. Hence it seemed uncanny when, in the dress rehearsal two days later, the dancers appeared on stage and intoned at the beginning of Munoz's piece (which hadn't been performed in the previous practice), "I've lost time and space, friends, photographs, books, memories, courage, time, friends…" and ended their performance of the Itoh's (the final) piece with a stream of free association, which I transcribed in the dark: "yes, perhaps, collapse, detain, unwind, simple, special, spectator, allowance, advertise, reveal, after, acknowledge, again, architecture, alone." (Then the final dancer being helped out of the spotlight by another dancer's extended hand…) My own poem, which runs some 140 lines, begins as follows (I hope the lineation comes through as I intend ... Thanks to C. Dale Thomas, I've just learned how to format it) :

in this circle
of light
i'm alone

teasing the air
torsion contortion

limbs lunging out
into the blackness

flesh glowing pink
that flicker

flight out of spotlight
flight out of sight

i'm dying
but spinning
in circle of


A. D. said...

Haha, I think you've inadvertantly married C. Dale and I.

Glad to see that my tip is serving you well.

Brian Campbell said...

Till death do you part.