Montreal’s Festival international de nouvelle danse and Festival de théâtre des Amériques kicked the bucket. But fear not … there’s a new beast on the avant-garde performance circuit: Festival TransAmériques (May 23-June 7, 2007).
Boasting18 days, 21 shows, industry get-togethers, panel discussions, public readings, and close encounters with stage wizards like Robert Lepage, FTA showcases “the here and now” of performance. Festival Director Marie-Hélène Falcon brands this era as one when “impurity and admixtures and exchange” are the merde.
I attended 10 performances – stand outs including Ex Machina & Théatre Sans Frontières’ ambitious epic Lipsynch (Québec/Newcastle), Lia Rodrigues’ boldly blood-soaked Incarnat (Rio de Janeiro), Daniel Léveilé Danse’s stripped and striking Crépuscule des océans (Montreal), Exorage Group’s tech-savvy and beguiling Life is but a dream #1 (Rennes), and Dave St-Pierre’s raw and stunning Un peu de tendresse / bordel de merde (Montreal) – and vouch that impurity was indeed the merde.
Now … the grumbling: “FTA is a dance festival because it deals with movement, but dance as we know it at FTA is dead,” divined Globe and Mail reviewer Paula Citron. “The events I saw, for the most part, lacked soul … these artists put form over content.”
The sacred edifice of dance is being shamelessly dismantled?! Sauté to kiss our relics – tutus and slippers only! Strike a match! [plié] Burn the bitches! [arabesque] Form never sullies content! [battement frappe]
Case in point: Dave St-Pierre, whom Citron pooh-poohs as “current flavour of the month.” Yet, considering his theatrical dance work Un peu de tendresse garnered unanimously ecstatic standing ovations and had yours truly in tears, this seasoned dancer and former Cirque de Soleil choreographer (Zumanity) is certainly more than just a passing fancy.
Upon entering the theatre you head for the edge. The stage featured a plainly illuminated row of chairs in which sat a nude man sporting a luscious blonde wig. Whilst we amused ourselves with the cooing she-male, the other dancers, donning 70s-styled evening dress, obsessively attempted to find seats and were not afraid to step on a few toes whilst doing so.
This was but a taste of the disorienting supersensual experience to come.
Un peu de tendresse’s episodic journey took us into raw vulnerability. The troupe of some 20 brave dancers brawled, groveled, stumbled, writhed, unabashedly flashed cocks, scrotums, pussies and anuses, slapped themselves silly, simulated blow-jobs and cum-filled maws, as well as executed a suite of athletic and evocative choreography. Grotesque, romantic, shameless, but always beautiful, St-Pierre takes the cake for transforming extreme physical and emotional abjection into spiritual elevation.
Yep, takes the cake.
A jaw-dropper unfolded when the vampish MC transformed an innocent picnic into an all-out fuck-fest by lifting her skirt, straddling a cake, and then pornographically pounding it. Coated with grunts, squeals, and even smearing the sweet into her butt and pussy, this bold image was one of many that challenged us to face otherwise stifled human truths.
Yet Citron squeezes out a puritanical diatribe. “Decidedly anti-feminist and anti-gay” she proclaims. “Pure trash,” she … [phrfffph!] Oops! [plié]
Let’s leave this quagmire. Citron’s rhetoric’s making a mess of dance, which, since the question’s been raised, is alive and kicking (and cake-fucking) at FTA.
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Ian Mozdzen is a writer in Montreal.