L’Agora de la danse opened its dance season this week with Benches, a work by Roger Sinha, inspired from Edward Albee’s play Zoo Story. The result is a theatrical dance production that relies heavily on its setting; an imagined park that is conjured up by benches dispersed throughout the stage.
It is in this environment that a complex relationship emerges out of the meeting of two strangers and the four other performers that gravitate around them.
From the very opening, the benches are ironically revealed as unstable instruments. The bases of the benches are rounded in such a way that they tip whenever the weight of the dancers moves off-centre. This creates an interesting new dynamic in a medium where performers can usually rely on the immobility of their dancing surface.
As they sit on the benches, they slowly move their body back and forth so that the benches lift up and come thumping back on the ground. Eventually they perform this task in unison, creating an ominous rhythm that highlights a menacing tension. Furthermore, they reveal the instability of their environment by constantly moving the benches around the stage.
Choreographer Roger Sinha enters the scene as the main character and throughout the show delivers short heartfelt monologues that, in the best Montreal tradition, flow in both English and French.
Early in the one-hour production, all performers find themselves on stage in an impressive visual number that hints towards acrobatics as they run in circles, use the benches as if they were propellers, and jump over each other. This number alone is worth the price of admission.
Though events do seemingly calm down after this number, the dance continues to maintain the audience’s attention, thanks in large part to Hugh Conacher’s intensely atmospheric lighting.
Despite the intrinsic dramatic tensions of the show, there are also plenty of lighthearted moments, including a few games of cat and mouse. However, the highlight remains the Latin dances that Beno