dance: made in canada / fait au canada festival (august 14th-18th) presented two works in a program titled ‘Mrozewski Series’ on Friday August 16th 2019, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. Curation by Matjash Mrozewksi
Leftovers by Josh Martin (Company 605)
Habiter (an excerpt)by Katia-Marie Germain
shadows indicate the absence of light. when light’s linear movement is thwarted by the presence of an object, its particles scatter sideways producing a shadow. this stark collision between light and matter reminds us of our own interruption and serves as proof of one’s shifting form and position. these contrasting elements form the core of dance: made in canada / fait au canada festival’s Mrozewski Series, curated by matjash mrozewski. in their words——between the two works Habiter and The Leftovers——“we are invited to consider stillness and movement, spareness and density, quiet and clamour.”
the series opens with Habiter, performed and choreographed by karia-marie germain. she is joined by fellow performer marie-gabrielle ménard. prior to the start, a wooden table lies centre-stage with an assortment of breakfast items: fruits, a mug, dishes, a few spoons, and even a box of Quaker cereal. it is reminiscent of a luxurious saturday morning, wherein time is stretched, and coffee is savoured. ménard sits across the table in gentle anticipation and to her right germain is seated perfectly upright facing a tall, black lamp.
suddenly, the stage turns pitch black. the steady hum of a flute vibrates throughout the theatre and a sharp click illuminates ménard. she sits frozen with three apples before her. there is a peculiarity in the banality of the scene coupled with her expressionless poise and haunting shadow. moments later another click swallows the light and we’re re-entered into darkness. with the command of the lamp, we face ménard again in a slightly different pose, this time she lifts a spoon as if scooping honey. all the while, germain remains postured in front of the lamp, orchestrating the light. the scene continues to flip from dark to light, with each illumination offering a slightly varied table setting, pattern, and ménard.
through each click of light or break of day, we are chorused through the choreography of routine. the automated shifts of weight and muscle that guide our movement and form our morning. the memory embedded in our flesh. i am oddly reminded of the ageing process. its gradual nature and eventual invasion of the body’s freedom.
the quiet elegance of Habiter is ruptured when one illumination reveals germain standing upright lifting a spoon. she swiftly drops the spoon, puncturing the previously established stillness with a clang. i almost think it was an accident until she repeats this action in the following sequence. with this, she effectively breaks the fourth wall between her and the audience, but more interestingly, with ménard as well. germain who previously orchestrated the transitions from light to dark enters the scene and they begin to form beautiful symmetry in their joint tableaux.
in some scenes, ménard or germain spill out of their tableaux and perform elongated movements detailing the muscles protracted in pouring cereal or biting fruit. they carefully slouch their backs and pull their core while mimicking the jarring effect of slow motion. admittedly, at 40-minutes in length, the piece feels too long. this is perhaps the desired effect, with the mundane continuity of routine forming Habiter’s centre. when it comes to an end, with the final flicker of light, i am slightly relieved.
my waned attention is immediately commanded however by the start of The Leftovers, performed and choreographed by josh martin. sludgy, psychedelic rock music pours into the theatre and jolts the audience. a thin spotlight shines upstage left, and martin is positioned directly across downstage right. slowly, with each charged beat of the music, he inches his arms higher and his drooping head back as if being awakened. just when i assume he’s about to stand upright, he continues to lurch backward into an aching bridge with careful ease. his isolation is precise and deliberate, bearing heavyweight and zero fluidity. at one point, he dissolves to the ground only to get up on his side in slow constraint breaths. each articulation of his body underscores the musculature involved in rising. i’m convinced i’m experiencing stop-motion photography, rather than a person in live performance.
abruptly, the pulsating beat of the rock music switches to muffled distortion infused with wailing string instruments. martin now performs a floor sequence under a meek spotlight. he repeatedly knocks his head back in agony, a significant motif across the work. when he gets up this time, his movement lacks the former rigidity and he flails between two spotlights. my scattered notes read ‘purgatory’ as if martin is trapped and tortured between two polarizing realms.
where Habiter presents the natural internalization of movement, The Leftovers turns our bodies inside out. it unleashes the pain that remains buried in our bones from the trauma of existing while searching for salvation. it is visceral in its delivery and pleading in its intensity. in the end, martin disintegrates into the ground and returns to the fetal position, his foot continuing to rock back and forth.
collectively, the Mrozewski Series combines two opposing pieces that explore the crash and scatter of light and the shadows that form in between. germain’s Habiter evokes the movement embedded in our body’s routine and while immediately captivating, stretches too long to hold the curiosity of its audience. martin’s work, The Leftovers, contrarily stuns its viewers by assigning unique life and memory to the body itself offering a new dimension to pain and suffering. in partnership, the Mrozewski Series produces a chilling effect prompting contemplations on our own form and its weighted passage through time.
Brannavy Jeyasundaram is a Bharatanatyam dancer and writer based in Richmond Hill. She regularly performs in dance programs and festivals across the Greater Toronto Area, and harbours a deep love for the art form.