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Compagnie Maguy Marin

October 4, 2013

Salves

Reviewed October 3, 2013

NAC Theatre, Ottawa

(Repeat performance October 4, 7:30 p.m.)

Photograph by Christian Ganet

Photograph by Christian Ganet

What a way to start the 2013-2014 dance season! Maguy Marin, a Spanish native raised in France, is a radical experimental choreographer and theatre designer who celebrates “the poetic power of art to shape and reshape our world.”

Based in Toulouse, France, Marin’s company premiered Salves in France three years ago and now brings this chaotic, risky piece of theatre to Ottawa after a 25-year absence from our city. Salves has been called a “masterful choreographic vision,” a “work of calculated chaos,” an “epic poem.”

If you’re expecting to experience dance, you will undoubtedly be disappointed, but you might be pleasantly surprised or entirely uninspired. It’s theatre, and it’s riveting and in-your-face theatre, performed by seven members of Marin’s company.

Salves is set on an open stage that resembles a warehouse or storage room, dusty black with plenty of props to play with, designed by Michel Rousseau and Louise Gros.

Each performer enters the stage from the audience, seemingly randomly participating in a curious measuring exercise that has the artists wandering absorbedly and in absolute silence about the stage pulling what appear to be invisible fine filaments of thread in tiny intricate finger movements.

After several minutes, the house lights extinguish, the stage lights black out and four vintage reel-to-reel tape recorders whir into action, presenting a soundscape designed by Antoine Garry, one that incorporates all levels of sound from complete silence to frenzied madness.

For the next hour, Marin presents a chaotic series of vignettes, snippets of movement flashing through on-off lighting, a man washing his hands, a woman in a wedding gown disappearing into the floor of a platform, slaps of repetition — a woman with a broken vase fitting the pieces together over and over, for example — groups of people tossing, running, falling, thumping. Stops, starts, clicks, stillness, glimpses, distant voices, half scenes, half truths. Stereotypical figures – king, pope, a man with a black face, a black woman with a child, a soldier – symbolize fearless commentary on hierarchy, domesticity, racism, art and culture.

And it all ends in a Mad Hatter violent food-fight tumble over a haphazardly dressed table, splatters of paint thrown against walls and over heads, kicks and punches all carefully choreographed into a chaotic creation of insanity.

You could despair trying to organize any of it or just observe and absorb. The images of Salves will roll around your brain long after you leave the theatre.

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