As we file into the bus stop theatre Friday night I’m greeted by a full house of mostly familiar faces. It seems everyone is on the sidelines to cheer on the three talented artists: Olivia Aubrecht, Vivika Ballard and Georgia Skinner having joined to create an “Ad Hoc” Dance show called B-Side. Bursting of sincerity and vulnerability, the show captivates through its tapestry of sinewy movement.
Alexis Cormier begins with an introduction of the show, having been an incredibly important figure in the dancers’ lives as a mentor she introduces the next hour and a half with humble pride as “an important show”. Combining Urban with Contemporary dance is a tall order especially in a scene where purist Contemporary movement has reigned for so long. These fearless femmes have an air of rebellion; aiming to set sail on new wind.
Shrouded in white tulle the stage is still with anticipation. three vintage bulbs hang downstage and light up slowly, the girls appearing shrouded in one long piece of fabric; short shallow breaths guide their arms, and the cloth, up and down in sporadic bursts of movement. The shiny new marley floor reflects the cloth perfectly adding a 3rd (or 4th?) dimension.
Throughout the show the Viv Liv and Georgia unapologetically glide through b-boy stances, finger isolations creating tension between themselves and props; dissecting their fears in front of the audience in a display of heart felt pessimism, distrust and uncertainty. Recently, I came across the video “What is Art For?” by The School of Life and though not everyone may agree with the opinions in the video, the part suggesting that art can help you realize “the normality of pain” B-side does this quite well.
Alexis Cormier’s group choreography sets the stage for the three, matching each other in talent and performance ability. Stepping up to Cormier’s challenging randomized patterns through space the girls guide each other with their partnering skills; synching up with a chemistry that takes years to develop among fellow dancers. I have the urge to whoot and holler as they perform some pretty impressive tricks, but because it’s entwined with contemporary movement, the audience along with myself sits quietly. I wonder if the next night will illicit a different response by a new group of audience members.
Vivika Ballard and Olivia Aubrecht, who are cousins, dance in Ballard’s next piece in a gritty struggle between herself and other. “At least with you, outside of me is a place”; part of the spoken word she performs while echoing her poetry with movement. Aubrecht, shrouded in a cocoon of cloth acts as the other, which Vivika has some friction with. A flower appears, Aubrecht taunting her by it, even performing what looks like a sort of ritualistic birth adding a creepy vibe to the work. Ultimately Ballard triumphs with a comical twist of fate, shoving the flower directly into Aubrecht’s mouth.
Like a good coming of age book, the show works through obstacles we face as a human race. The soundtrack by Vivika’s brother Jacob Ballard is as entwined as the tulle, always working with and accentuating the theme and movement, never working against; giving the impression that the sound is being created spontaneously with the movement.
Having been surrounded in dance for so long, and inundated with show after show it has been a long time since I’ve been moved to tears by a performance. But Aubrecht’s sincerity filled the theatre as she performed the next work and I felt such a real connection to her piece through my own personal drama of the moment. Reaching towards the light moving extended through her limbs with all of her might only to get pulled away by the length of organza attached to her waist; getting back up to try again. I mean, come on, who in this world hasn’t experienced the feat of surrender to fate only to talk yourself back into the vain routine, uncertain of the outcome? “Don’t waste your time on being rescued, free yourself today” and with that the shift becomes an empowering break from her dilemma, the lyrics of her song “Ne me quitte pas” echo in my head long after she moves to a swaggering jazz song with a determined shape shifting quality.
As Aubrecht disappears Skinner surprises us with “I’m not here” swaddled in her cocoon of tulle rocking back and forth in her rocking chair. She delves into the tangled tragedy of doubt and hesitation. Contorting and smashing into the wall with defeat. As her solo comes to a close, just when you think she couldn’t pull more from her physicality, she gracefully supports herself and uses the floor as her partner to execute an expressive display of b-boy inspired contemporary movement before resolving to set herself free, the others joining in on their own journey of freedom.
As the three bulbs slowly fade and the dancers back away I look on and see the next generation feeling a pang of sadness, I identify with a darkness that shrouds a society plagued by environmental, political, and societal wreckage casting the shadow of doubt on the future of many whom have just begun the long trudge through a career equally full of uncertainty. I feel the show echoes the real and desperate fears experienced across generations but especially of those in tough economic times like today, where prosperity hangs over your head just….out of reach.
And with that, the crowd stands for a well deserved ovation…cheering maniacally for the three having successfully spilled their hearts and guts out so that we could feel what we all need to feel sometimes…a sort of transformation through to other side.