The Dance Centre’s Executive Director Mirna Zagar introduces two international artists whose work can be seen this month as part of our Global Dance Connections series, presented with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.
Entering our second decade of collaboration with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (we partnered with them for the very first festival back in 2004 to co-present Montreal’s Deborah Dunn, and every year since then!), I am thrilled that this thriving partnership continues to give us the opportunity to show exciting dance works from overseas and closer to home.
This year with the Festival we present two exceptional artists who have been capturing audiences around the world – Lisbeth Gruwez from Belgium, and Faustin Linyekula from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I had come to know Lisbeth originally as a dancer with major names including Jan Fabre, Ultima Vez/Wim Vandekeybus and En Knap (a repertory company from Slovenia directed by Iztok Kovac). All of these choreographers insist on minute detail, precision and technical perfection and expect their dancers to utilize their skills in the most challenging of circumstances! Her training was in ballet and then at PARTS, directed by another dance icon, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, which pushes its students to formulate their individual aesthetics and to explore ways to push beyond the boundaries of the typical dance curriculum. She has also worked with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Jan Lauwer's Needcompany. All very powerful creative contexts!
I encountered Faustin’s work initially through my relationship with the French dance scene and from following African contemporary dance, which as yet is not widely seen in Canada; his organization Studios Kabako holds a very special place in the development of African contemporary dance.
The works that Lisbeth and Faustin are bringing to Vancouver both remind us of the power of words. Lisbeth co-founded her company Voetvolk in 2007 with composer/musician Maarten van Cauwenberghe, and the interaction between the body and sound/music is always prominent in their works. There also seems to be a fascination with the human condition in a state of ecstasy, driven by a transcending energy from spoken word, laughter, or some other starting point, which requires an absolute mastery of motion. In It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend Lisbeth reminds us how a speech has the power to move us into action, to tears, into revolution, and even to catastrophe. Through very simple movements that start small, a world explodes before us. And, while the theme is about how it can quickly get worse… well, the performance simply gets better and better as it evolves and we witness a bravura display of absolute skill. We are also reminded of how brutal a weapon the spoken word can be. The work itself is less about the direct meaning of words, and more about the danger which lies in the rhetoric of fanaticism and a trance-like state. So (sadly) appropriate for the times we witness.
My most recent encounter with Faustin was in my home town of Zagreb last summer where he presented his work Drums and Digging, along with a workshop which further expanded on his creative process, always inspired by his desire and need to revisit his roots. His works are based as much in the African tradition of storytelling as in his growing maturity as a dance maker: he has undertaken residencies with some of France’s most influential choreographers, including Regine Chopinot and Mathilde Monnier. In Le Cargo, he builds on the traditional structures of the Congolese dance form Ndombolo and its associated music, telling the tragic story of his homeland which is filled with terror, fear and the collapse of family, country, and friendships, but tapping into a deep hope and belief in the transformative power of culture and a strong sense of heritage and need to connect to his roots. His work is raw yet magical, moving, thought-provoking. His movement results from the reflection on memory, heritage, and history; his words reflect, more than they speak a particular story, though the story is of his own land. While intricately woven and multilayered, the work is simple in structure. And as Faustin speaks of his roots in Africa, we are reminded of our own roots and the impact of colonialism, conflict and migration, and so cannot but feel the Africa in us.
This year there is a third work we are co-presenting with the Festival – the world premiere of Time Machine, by Vancouver’s own MACHiNENOiSY. As with 605 Collective’s Inheritor Album last year, this piece has come out of The Dance Centre’s Artist-in-Residence program, and for me it’s hugely rewarding to see works generated locally appearing in this global context. Watch out for a guest blog post by Co-Artistic Director Delia Brett about the show, coming soon, and meanwhile I invite you join us on this journey of three unique experiences!
The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections series:
Lisbeth Gruwez| Voetvolk It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend January 22-24, 8pm
Faustin Linyekula|Studios Kabako Le Cargo January 29-31, 8pm
MACHiNENOiSY Time Machine February 4-7, 8pm
At Scotiabank Dance Centre: tickets from Tickets Tonight.
Photos from top: Lisbeth Gruwez by Luc Depreitere, Faustin Linyekula by Agathe Poupeney.