Kudelka’s Work

The Dance Seen

Last Saturday evening was the fourth of the 2017/2018 Live Art Season, presenting work by James Kudelka danced by Citadel & Compagnie from Toronto.

The program starkly contrasted the others while the common thread was a tendency for highly physical and technical movement.

I brought a friend Andrew MacKelvie with me. MacKelvie is a large player in the Music scene with his affinity for jazz saxophone and playing countless gigs around the city and beyond, notably with Lido Pimienta at the Polaris Prize Gala.

One thing that touches me about dance is the ability for it to reach various people for a diverse range of aesthetics. This was apparent during this show of remounted works by James Kudelka, and the arc of his interest as a choreographer reflected a change in perspective of dance.

The first piece was remounted on the newer generation of Citadel & Cie many of them having been born after the original choreography was created in 1991. This testament to it’s strength in surviving the climate of ever changing tastes in dance can be attributed to the technical enterprise inherent in this classical work. The exchange between pairs of dancers varied in mood and intricacies. Some were driven more by the beauty of line and others were filled with inventive quirky interactions. One palpable difference between each segment was seen in the chemistry between pairs. With a new wave of contemporary approach, I like to watch the personality of each dancer celebrated where this work emphasized the shape and challenge of work. There wasn’t as much room for dancers to really pull the audience into their style. I was able to pick up on some of the dancers’ artistry in glimpses, however, artistic director Laurence Lemieux, with her exquisite lines and skill for sinking into a work shone through; there was less asking and more telling in her movement.

15 heterosexual duets was subtly diverse in its portrayal of relationship that it kept us tracking the whole time with phrases repeated from different angles and tempos. I was relieved to see the switch between male and female roles although the general concencus seemed to be the male’s position should be behind the female, support the lilting female with some variation. The fourth duet was extremely strong with powerful line and kinetic impulse. One duet surprisingly featured the female dancer catching her male counterpart. Though I often overlook costuming, the designer for this piece was incredibly good at accentuating the movement with long and light flowing skirts, various colours and a pants/top number that made the men look as though they stepped off of a fashionable street to perform.

The second piece, Soudain l’hiver dernier discarded this traditional view of relationship, where two men were seen in a firstly tentative duet and then more captivating and vulnerable towards the finish. Throughout, the mechanics of choreography employed repetition and pattern, changing tempo and contact dance. This duet allowed for the dancers’ ( Connor Milton and Brodie Stevenson) personalities to shine more and the heartfelt way they grasped each other side by side, squeezing until their shoulders shrugged was reminiscent of two close drinking buddies. As Gavin Bryan’s soundtrack “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet” repeated over and over, the duet slowly morphed into a deeper theme, challenging the way one might view masculinity. Their vintage costuming allowed one to ponder the context in which the theme was presented, giving it even more depth as a potentially historical work. My attending partner Andrew turned to me with wide eyes, audibly moved and impressed by the work.

Photo of: Laurence Lemieux by: Michael Slobodian

The Man in Black was enjoyable as a rhythmically compelling work. The starkness of  American culture was a tad hard on the eyes in the wake of call for a more critically inclusive climate, however the crafting of the work employed some visually stunning imagery. With tableau, sometimes very literal nods were made to multiple soundtracks by Johnny Cash. The tangling and untangling of four dancers, and appropriation of country and western dancing into the contemporary dance form was truly unique. The transition of rhythm between each of the six pieces of music was so satisfying and the movement felt very smartly built around the rhythm offering me something to hold on to. Erin Poole was exquisitely strong and held her own among 3 male dancers, Luke Garwood, Tyler Gledhill and Daniel McArthur, matching the strength and outdoing with her technical prowess coupled with her ability to truly live within the dance.

Overall the show was enjoyable, especially as someone interested in the timeline of contemporary dance in Canada. A great like Kudelka can create technically stunning work, though lacks a strong pushing of boundaries. I’m interested in the chance to contrast his work against some from Montreal and even Halifax to see the how contemporary dance can be so varied from place to place and generation to generation; captivating the various recesses of our imaginations.

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