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Lucy Guerin Inc

November 8, 2013
Photograph by Heidrun Löhr

Photograph by Heidrun Löhr

Weather

Reviewed November 7, 2013

NAC Studio, Ottawa

(Repeat performances November 8 and 9, 8 p.m.)

For Canadians, weather is a significant topic of conversation. For choreographer Lucy Guerin, who grew up on a farm in Australia, weather shaped her ideas about humanity’s connection to the elements. It also acts as a barometer, she says, for our environmental disasters.

The work she calls Weather, currently playing in the National Arts Centre Studio, doesn’t do a lot to reflect any of that dynamic, however. There are no melting ice caps or torrential floods, driving hail storms or raging blizzards, either in the set design or notable in the movement.

Sure, the 65-minute piece opens with the solidly built dancer Alisdair Macindoe seemingly being buffeted about the empty stage accompanied by the sound of his own whistling in and out breaths. Man versus the elements, with a focus on the fragility and the flexibility of the limbs.

But the second phrase, which features a couple walking repetitively in squares and circles about the stage, is just plain boring. While moving beneath a “cloud ceiling” of apparently three thousand white plastic bags – puffed out just so –the dancers exude a sense of being driven by external forces. But the work says nothing about the weather or the skills of the dancers for that matter.

While the concept of human against the weather may be fascinating, and certainly topical, Weather doesn’t enact it.

Far more interesting is when the six dancers interact as a kind of human engine. The momentum builds from here and becomes a little more enlightening. We sense shock, awe, fear, wonder, a lack of control, a defining of space.

The costumes, designed by Shio Otani, are appropriate reflections of “weather” — grey and dusky blue crocheted tight-fitting jumpers, atop navy dance pants. The lighting, designed by Benjamin Cisterne, wavers subtly between bright light and light diffused, as it might be in different seasons or at different times of the day.

The original composition by Oren Ambarchi is an abstract mix of pulsing reverberations and chinking mechanical noises, interspersed with the tinkling of piano keys and the rumbling of percussive instruments.

The sound of the plastic bags themselves, a good many of which fall suddenly from the ceiling part way through the work, makes up some of the soundscape, as does the heaving and sighing of the dancers’ breathing. Respiration, exhalation, whisperings, gasps and groans – the sound and fury from the lungs of the dancers.

And then there is a diversion of plastic bag play – somewhat childish but amusing – where one of the male dancers wraps a bag frighteningly tightly around another’s head, and makes entertaining shapes out of the plastic.

At one point, the bags are all shoved to the back of the stage by the dancers who act as brooms, sliding across the floor on their backs. And then they “skate” through them, smoothly sliding, gliding over the swishing bags. One could easily imagine a rink.

Most delightful of all are the intimate moments between two or more of the dancers as they form intricate and creative hand movements, showing off a tightly woven co-ordination amongst the small skillful troupe.

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From → Contemporary

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