Canadian dancer turned choreographer Marie Chouinard has brought her 10-person company to Taipei to show off their bodies and her latest work, bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERGvARIATIONS at the National Theater this weekend.
Created for the Venice Biennale's International Festival of Contemporary Dance last year, Chouinard's 85-minute ballet is an exploration of the human condition and freedom -- and how limitations can often create other options, open other doors.
Freedom can also bring with it pain, just as the most beautiful examples of dancing often require pain and suffering on the part of the dancer -- as anyone who has ever seen the feet of professional ballet dancers can attest. Chouinard examines freedom and pain by taking her raw material -- the dancers' bodies -- and attaching them to a variety of props such as crutches, prostheses, harnesses and bars, not to mention skateboards and ballet point shoes worn on hands. She then explores how such devices can be a hindrance or a support or something else entirely.
A dance bar becomes the set for a duet for two male dancers, while other bars or canes become appendages, protruding from unusual places -- such as a dancer's mouth or the small of his back. The dancers remix their own bodies with the props, twisting them into new, often bizarre, forms -- turning them into some kind of mutant creatures.
Chouinard's idea was to break down dancer's patterns of movement by giving them new extensions and news ways of moving through space, whether in solos, duets or ensemble combinations, as well as different tempos and repetitions.
The canes and bars just provide concrete illustrations of the invisible lines that dancers project when they move their arms, legs or whole bodies, just as point shoes lengthen the line of the female dancer's legs. The ropes and harnesses allow Chouinard to be more of a puppet master than choreographers usually are, as her dancers walk on point through the air right into the hands of their colleagues.
Quite aptly this ballet about variations is set to Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations as recorded by pianist Glenn Gould, with original music by Louis Dufort. Gould's voice is also heard at times, albeit as electronically distorted as the Bach is, discussing flexible musical theory.
Not only did Chouinard choreograph the ballet, she designed the set, the lighting and the props as well.
There is some nudity, but Chouinard has stressed that she is not trying to use the nude body as a provocation or a titillation but as a manifestation of beauty and a vehicle for art.
Compagnie Marie Chouinard, now in its 16th year, is the sixth group in the seven-troupe line-up of the National Theater's Dancing into Spring festival, which began with the Neo-Classic Dance Company's Carmina Burana in early April. The festival concludes next week with the Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keermaeker's troupe Rosas.
What: Compagnie Marie Chouinard
Where: National Theater, Taipei (國家戲劇院)
When: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm
Tickets: NT$500, NT$700, NT$900, NT$1,200, NT$1,600, NT$2,000