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José Navas / Compagnie Flak : Personæ

March 10, 2012

Jose Navas dances to Ravel's "Bolero," Photograph by Valerie Simmons

Reviewed March 9, 2012

NAC Studio, Ottawa

The sense of musicality that José Navas of Montreal’s Compagnie Flak brings to his performances is unmistakable. And for the most part, the six accompaniment choices he made for the new solo work, Personæ, which he brought to the NAC Studio stage this week, draw us in. Referring to aspects of character, Personæ leads us through six character transformations, six different perceptions or meditations of desire and divinity.

The show opens with a smoke-filled stage, the sound of chanting and Navas sitting on a chair in an alcove in a meditative state. A variety of props, mostly his costume changes, are beside him. He never leaves the stage for the one-hour performance, but between each of the six sections, he returns to the alcove to change. The costumes, which Navas designed himself, are red, black or white flowing shirts, pants or long skirts.

Vivaldi steers the opening movement, which features Navas in a state of deep stillness and an expression of immense grace. Here, we witness his admirable musicality as he allows the composition to animate his grace and disciplined physicality.

A somewhat humorous but nonetheless contemplative movement in contrast to the first dance, is Navas imitating the “divine” dance of a woman, clad in a tight red sweater and red high-heeled pumps, with short black briefs showing off his muscular shapely legs. In his thick Venezuelan accent, he tells the audience he loved watching women dance when he was a child, that he believed they were “divine.” His gentle, flirtatious swaying to the timeless balladic piano of Mexican musician-poet Agustin Lara evokes these sacred moments from his boyhood.

In other movements, Navas “confines” himself to the earth, reaches heavenward for inspiration, or engages ritualistically with the music, as he does for the last movement, accompanied by Maurice Ravel’s famous Bolero. While his intricate arm and hand movements suggest a blend of flamenco and sign language, the dance doesn’t quite reach the crescendo dictated by the music.

Certainly a highlight of Navas’s miniature works was the second-last piece he performed to a Patti Smith number, wearing nothing but a creepy, black, full wolf’s-head mask, dancer’s briefs and running shoes. Curiously entertaining, Navas becomes a primitive soul of sorts, a human being in the throes of animalistic instincts, who can only breathe, barely, and search spastically for footing in an insecure world.

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From → Contemporary

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