Uncommon Spaces
Breaks Preconceptions

Another dive into the crucible of creativity at Tangente

By Luc Archambault

Another week, another deep-dive into the highly creative atmosphere of Tangente. This week, as is the norm set for this season, three choreographies: 5 minutes pour que je te dise (Five Minutes So I Can Tell You), performed and created by Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo, Habiter (Inhabit, or Dwell), created by Katia-Marie Germain and performed by Katia-Marie Germain and Marie Gabrielle, and Closer, by Karen Fennell and Nikki Forest, performed by Karen Fennell and Maxine Segalowitz.

The first piece, 5 minutes pour que je te dise, is part of the Aboriginal Spring of Arts 3 program (Printemps autochtone d’Art 3), presented by the native theatre company Ondinnok (of the famed artist Yves Sioui Durand and his Porteur des peines du monde). During the month of April, native artists will present short pieces as introductions to major shows throughout Montreal. So, in the context of this initiative, Tangente invited Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo, the Mohawk artist from Kahnawake, to take the stage.

Her piece is highly symbolic. Four candles set in a circular pattern, with tree branches laid between them. Mrs. Diabo lights these candles, takes the branches, and starts her trance-like performance. With a background of photos of natives projected onto a screen at the back of the stage, the absolute effect is incredibly powerful. What would have made it even stronger would have been the incorporation of drums and Mohawk chants. And what would have made it perfect would have been to stretch the performance for thirty minutes or so, her presence on stage being so energetic, with charisma and a depth of expressions rarely seen.

…her presence (Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo) on stage being so energetic, with charisma and a depth of expressions rarely seen.

Of course, the whole premise of the program is based in its brevity, but it could be prolonged easily. And, as a last point, I am sure that a more political stance by this Kahnawake artist would be more than welcomed, if only for the photographs projected in the background. But, apart from these few observations, I couldn’t put more emphasis on the intensity and powerful imagery of this choreography. It is primeval, with unparalleled freshness and strength – a pure marvel. Congratulations!

The second piece, Habiter (I translate it freely as Inhabit or Dwell), reminds me of a Vermeer masterpiece, all in shadows. It consists of flashes of light onto a table around which are sitting two performers. Highly ritualized, more a series of snapshots than a series of movements, this is a choreography with a high level of complexity. Lasting about forty minutes, it soon takes on a meditative bend.

‘The second piece, Habiter, reminds me of a Vermeer masterpiece, all in shadows.’

Zones déroutantes WestmountMag.ca

© Olivier-Desjardins

With only minor variations between each moment, revealed by flashes of illumination, this choreography breaks down reality and takes on a fragmented complexity that evokes a cartoonish aesthetic. My only reservation is the abandonment of the rigidity of the postures and the introduction of movements towards the end of it. I would have indeed preferred that the immobility of the bodies persist throughout the piece. But perhaps I dreamed or fantasized these movements because of the dream like state that this work induces. Mesmerizing, to say the least.

The last piece, Closer, is one of the most experimental I’ve seen at Tangente. This is an exploration of space, both subjective and objective, of wavelengths and fluidic reality. Here, the researchers, rather than mere performers, are looking for a reality that is out worldly, almost extraterrestrial. The first one walks onstage with a wave reading apparatus generating distorted sounds. The second one, behind a sheet of sheer plastic, convulses and gyrates, as if under the influence of a rabies-like ailment. All the while, a third one, with a subjective video camera, seems to catch all those movements, projecting them onto a back-wall screen.

‘Closer… is one of the most experimental I’ve seen at Tangente… an exploration of space, both subjective and objective, of wavelengths and fluidic reality.’

Zones déroutantes WestmountMag.ca

© Nikki-Forrest

The only weakness of this choreography lies in its apparent mishiness and lack of intensity. I would have liked to hear loud screams throughout this piece, more hysteria, more confusion, more mayhem. This absence of emotive strength leaves the spectator with a rationalized distance, a plunge into abstraction as indeed promised, but with too much detachment, apparent coldness and distance. This assertion notwithstanding, this is a sublime piece, extremely well played out by the performers. This team will be on my watch list in the future. I can’t wait to see where they’ll take us next.

Uncommon Spaces thus accomplishes what it sets out to do, completely unsettling any preconceptions. It blows out the limits of modern dance, blurring boundaries between performance and choreography, stillness and movement, poetic evocation and hard-factual rendering.

Tangente is closed until April 27, to let the public breathe in some fresh air and ideas after such shocking images, I guess. The next show, Virtually, in the Flesh intends to give body to virtual technologies and compelling futuristic visions for humanity. I shudder in advance.

Feature image: Olivier-Desjardins

Luc Archambault WestmountMag.ca

Luc Archambault
Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.

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