Bite-sized pieces of sweet dances: Review of Short and Sweet

On the evening of 22 April, dance enthusiasts, acolytes, friends, fans and city folk of all stripes gathered at La Sala Rossa for the annual and much-loved contemporary dance event, Short & Sweet. The title this year: “More Dances That End Quickly.”

The show has been around for ten years. It’s the brainchild of choreographers Sasha Kleinplatz and Andrew Tay, who together co-founded and run local dance company, Wants&Needs.

Read our interview with Sasha Kleinplatz

Short & Sweet Cover 4Each year, Kleinplatz and Tay invite their favourite choreographers to create original pieces for the event. The only rule is that each piece must be three minutes long – no exceptions, no Academy Awards style “cue the music” prompt. Once a piece goes over time, lights and music are summarily cut and a disembodied voice calls out from the ether: “Time!” Willingly or not, the performers must exit the stage.

This year, though, Kleinplatz and Tay tried something a little different. Instead of inviting choreographers, they handed the reigns over to the dancers themselves, asking them to come up with pieces of their own, “to shine a light on their talent and what they do for the community,” explained Kleinplatz before the show. Dancers certainly do a lot for the community – but what hit home the most was just how much fun they seem to have doing it.

Short & Sweet Cover 10There were 27 pieces total. Envelopes were pushed as performers explored the spaces between themselves and their own conceptions of what dance performance ought to be. Some were quirky (Isabelle Poirier cutting loose in purple wig, convulsing and chattering across the stage until signing off with a shower of exploded sparkle dust), some were dramatic (The only motion in Nicolas Labelle’s performance was his expression as it morphed from naively curious to grotesquely frightened) and others just reveled in the absurd (Isabelle Arcand and Claudine Hébert’s performance involved a corpse, a possible snuff GIF, and bouquet-throwing).

Most of the audience seemed personally acquainted with the people on stage, as the persistent hoots of encouragement attested. But because of the show’s unconventional setting (Sala Rossa is more dance hall than dance theatre) and the cabaret-style format, it felt fresh and accessible even to the casual attendee. While the show certainly showcased the depth of talent in Montreal’s dance community, it’s hard to ignore that half the fun was anticipating whether the dancers would finish on time. And the performers seemed to embrace the format as well. Take, Nicolas Patry, for example, who spent the bulk of his five minutes having his beard shaved off by a man wearing bright pink high heels.

Dancer: Corinne Crane Dancer: Corrine Craine Desmairais

Corrine Craine Desmairais performed the show’s penultimate piece. She brought the house down with her lip-synched rendition of “I’m Every Woman,” after which Benjamin Kamino encouraged the audience to get up and move in slow motion. “Time!” was called for the very last dance, and the audience, already standing and warmed up from the slow motions, helped clear away the fold out chairs and ready the space for what would become a dance party of epic awesomeness.

It was as if everyone internalized all of the on stage goodness and was busting to get it out of them, recklessly and with abandon. Doesn’t hurt that most of the people on the floor were professionally trained dancers. They know how to do it with abandon, intentionally!

If you’re not really sure what contemporary dance is, Short & Sweet is the perfect introduction. It’s the YouTube of the dance world: short, amateur clips of stuff you never knew existed but now urgently want to watch over and over again. Conversely, if you are familiar with Montreal’s contemporary dance scene, Short & Sweet offers a moment of respite from the usual venues and formal atmospheres. The moment may be short and sweet, but it’s one to remember.

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