It’s not easy following Dave St-Pierre. After going to see Un peu de tendresse, bordel de merde for the second time last week, the following night I went to see Gioconda Barbuto and Emily Molnar’s Lifelines at Agora de la danse. It was going from a night of excessive risk-taking to a work that played it completely safe.
Three curved lines delimit the space. From the audience, they look like they were drawn by the fat side of a chalk. When the two choreographers/interpreters walk out onstage and extend the lines by writing words, we realize that this is what they were all along.
Let me get what I find the worst thing about the show out of the way first: the costumes. Tight enough so as to not impede the movement, with a bit of frou-frou to mark the feminine, they make the dancers look like a couple of yoga moms. It’s the kind of costume that might be perfect for practice, but that should never be found on a dance stage, unless meant as a parody of contemporary dance, which I assume isn’t the case here given how seriously everyone seems to take themselves.
There is also whispering on the soundtrack, which reminded me of a video teacher I once had who forbade her students to use such a device. She found it cliché and tacky. After hearing it here, I have to admit that she isn’t proved wrong. There are some good sections to the music, but sometimes it becomes reminiscent of a film score in its sentimentality.
Speaking of video, Lifelines uses that medium too with Michael Slobodian as its creator. As I’ve stated in the past, video is often rather poorly used in dance and it’s no exception here. Once again, it’s used as moving tapestry, something pretty you put in the background but that isn’t too distracting or offensive, which is in itself an offensive use of video. We get images of moving hands abstracted by darkness, the superimposed bodies of the dancers, and, of course, lines. While dance is a great medium for the abstraction of the human body, video is not.
Finally, Barbuto’s facial expressions often come across as melodramatic and give an artificial emotion to the piece that simply doesn’t emanate from it. Barbuto and Molnar are good dancers, but good dancers in a bad show still make for a bad show.
It’s a really busy time in the dance world this week. If you can still manage to get tickets to Un peu de tendresse, bordel de merde, which just got a series of added dates at Usine C from January 23 to 26, you should do so. It’s really one of the most important works of the year. For more information: 514.521.4493.