Fixer la chair

Photo Credit: Frederic Chais

“Fixer la Chair”, presented by Tangente at the Monument rationale this past weekend (March 31st), was a complimentary pairing of works by Caroline Laurin-Beaucage and Amélie Rajotte, both members of LORGANISME, a company that unites independent choreographers.

For these recent weeks of early spring that feel more like the toughest part of winter, it’s easy to fall into a perpetual state of apathy – the grey day of human experience. While this befitting program didn’t incite springtime in my heart, Fixer La Chair (translated as “fix the flesh”) woke me out of a winter stupor with themes of mortality, corporality and dark humour.

Entailles

Laurin-Beaucage’s “Entailles” opened the show, with dancers Esther Rousseau-Morin and Rachel Harris who showed much tact in performing with a raw chicken. Both deeply physically researched and symbolically poignant, this work was a sensitively choreographed reflection on the deeply visceral aspects of beings. Audience members arrived in the space to find the two dancers gingerly manipulating the body of a chicken into poses, to a background of lounge music.

Acting partly as a comical introduction to a potentially bizarre situation, this first part of the piece earnestly explored the parameters of the chicken physically and established a link between the body of the chicken and the subsequent movements of the bodies of the dancers. With a ritualistic and sterile approach, the piece reframes the controlled way that we perceive lifeless animals and contrasting vital agency of our own actions and bodies. In the subsequent unfolding of the dance, movement vocabulary echoing the clutched limbs and angles of the chicken was performed with an attack that highlighted both a malleability of flesh and the mechanical function of human (and avian) joints.

The scenic elements on stage included several small metal hooks (eventually suspending the chicken and its removed skin) and a plastic floor that was used in several ways by the dancers, but also acted to give a strong sense of texture and reference to the context of the events occurring on stage. At one point a large red light swung down onto the stage, reminiscent of the light of a rotisserie heating tray. It was this kind of tongue-in-cheek reference that exhibited the sensitivity and consideration with which each aspect of the piece was smoothly integrated. Even the costuming – black clothing and sheer pantyhose – created a link between the layers removed from the chicken and the layers of clothing and flesh that surround us as humans.

Compositionally, the piece is succinct, with no extraneous information and a timeline that builds to an unforgettable image of Harris attaching her collar to a hook above her and slowly sliding out of her dress like the chicken hung close to the audience.

Entailles impressively balances well-placed elements of scenography, sound, costumes and movements that combine to create an abstract narrative that is at once witty, dark, poetic and deeply resonant.

Carnaval

Photo Credit: Frédéric Chais

Photo Credit: Frédéric Chais

Carnaval by Amélie Rajotte Followed, performed by Rajotte, Nicolas Labelle, Nicolas Patry, Jessica Serli and Ashlea Watkin.

While the performers addressed the audience both at the beginning and end of the representation (as if we were all in a circus tent), the piece occurred in a no-man’s land, a bizarre purgatory where sections of events and images emerged and faded fluidly into each other. With diverse costuming of masks, states of dress and undress and the use of props, Rajotte and her ensemble created rich, dark and captivating images that were reminiscent of the films of David Lynch.

Sometimes surreal, often of a social nature, these images and vignettes were all connected to musings on mortality and the intense realities that occur within our inevitably insignificant lives. At the same time, the characters seemed to transform between childlike creatures, supernatural spirits, and aggressive animals.

In one unforgettable section, performer Ashlea Watkin was pulled onto a chair by a fellow dancer and with a scarf covering her face, began to speak. In one of the only english texts in the piece, and half blurted as if possessed by a voice not her own, the character addressed god as if he was seated in the audience. The monologue suddenly dissolved into a red-lit, dream-like sequence of topless bodies wearing deer masks.

Combining imagery of early religious art, animalistic physical explorations and unsettling humour, this piece managed to beautifully weave together a cacophony of disparate impressions from the mortal being. In spite of the elaborate visual elements of this piece, ultimately it was the intense, contorted physicality of the performers that conveyed an aspect of unease and searching as an essence of life.

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