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Amber Funk Barton / Josh Martin

October 23, 2014

Surrender, Leftovers, Hero & Heroine

Reviewed October 23, 2014

NAC Studio, Ottawa

(Repeat performances October 24 & 25, 8 p.m.)

Thankfully, Amber Funk Barton and Josh Martin’s duet, Hero & Heroine, saves the sleepy performance in the National Arts Centre Studio Thursday night, but sadly, it is last on the menu, after two yawn-inducing solos. The two Vancouver dancers come together for the final work after each performs a solo of their own creation.

Barton established her own contemporary dance company, the response., in 2008. Martin, Alberta-born and internationally trained, is the artistic co-director of the contemporary group, 605 Collective.

Hero & Heroine is not their first collaboration and they harmonize well together. This half-hour work showcases their tight co-ordination and highly polished practice as they perform the tiniest movements in sync and in perfect alignment.

First created in 2010, Hero & Heroine begins with the sound of a dripping tap as Barton and Martin lie flat and still on bed-sized rectangles of light. Does it wake them? Or is it the music-box version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that trips them into an alternate, magical reality?

They roll across the floor towards each other and fall into and out of sleep. They weave effortlessly over and under each other as they play with each other’s space. They push and pull and wonder periodically at each other’s sometimes lifeless bodies.

Ultimately, Hero & Heroine is an intimate relationship between he and she, with a touch of wit and irony that gives us a beautiful sense of their humanity.

Unfortunately, the work just peters out, leaving a half-turned page on an unfinished chapter.

Barton and Martin in "Hero & Heroine" Photograph by Chris Randle

Barton and Martin in “Hero & Heroine”
Photograph by Chris Randle

Barton’s premiere of Surrender is a disappointing opening for the show. Under dim lighting and to an original driving, percussive soundscape by Marc Stewart, Barton gives us a sense of a sole warrior battling the unseen as she searches for balance and a solid place of defense. The bodily tale she tells is overpowered by Stewart’s deafening accompaniment – which includes the sound of whinnying horses and cawing crows. It’s not unlike an old, crackly silent film off balance in a modern landscape.

Martin’s solo Leftovers, which won awards at the recent Internationales Solo-Tanz-Theater Festival in Stuttgart, is an artful study in subconscious movement. Each beat of the music (tracks by American noise rock duo Lightning Bolt and Canadian experimental post-rocker Sandro Perri, who goes by the name of Polmo Polpo) informs Martin’s staccato moves, as if each muscle is programmed by individual notes. As the 15-minute or so performance progresses (it seems longer), it becomes more and more challenging to sit still in one’s seat – the twitch factor infiltrates — as the tiny precise movements jerk Martin’s body parts into a slow-motion-like animation.



From → Contemporary

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