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Dance in Vancouver is an adventure worth experiencing

Dance in Vancouver’s opening night performance featured two of Vancouver’s most exciting dance companies, Wen Wei Dance and Tara Cheyenne Performance, who combined dance with storytelling and some truly striking visual images.

The first piece of the night was Wen Wei Dance‘s work-in-progress Made in China.  A collaboration with Beijing Modern Dance Company’s Artistic Director Gao Yanjinzi, as well as local musician Qiu Xia He, Made in China is meant to explore the experience of a Chinese Canadian.  The performers tell personal stories of life in China, interspersed with solo dance pieces.

The combination of dance and monologue is difficult in the best of cases, and somewhat awkward here.  This could be because of the unfinished nature of the piece, but the strongest parts of this piece are not the combination of story and dance, but the combination of dance and technology.

Wen Wei makes use of live video feeds and projections to make some incredible images.  The first, and most stunning, being a solo dancer, shrouded in a massive piece of netting, with the projector creating a simple black-and-white copy on the screen behind him.  The veil is barely visible in the double image, and creates an almost dream-like quality to his smooth and intricate movements.

This motif of doubled images carries throughout the piece, with entrancing use of animation creating thousands of copies of the mirrored dance-motions, or a series of inky watermarks trailing after their movements.  These visuals are worth the somewhat clunky use of personal narrative, that may be overcome as the piece develops.

The next act featured Tara Cheyenne Performance‘s Highgate, a completely different combination of storytelling and dance, featuring sharp movements and strong character work.

Tara Cheyenne Performance's Highgate is a combination of storytelling and dance, featuring sharp movements and strong character work.

Tara Cheyenne Performance’s Highgate is a combination of storytelling and dance, featuring sharp movements and strong character work.

Highgate takes its name from the famous cemetery in London, and features a matronly, Victorian lady who seems to be Death, or its keeper, as well as her three designated mourners.  It opens with a monologue informing the audience that they are, indeed, now dead.  It’s serious content, but through Cheyenne’s character work, it is truly funny.

The transition from monologue into dance is almost seamless.  At first, as Cheyenne leaves her trio of tied-at-the-skirt mourners to demonstrate their capabilities, it seems like a piece of very physical theatre.  The girls bustle about, whisper, and stand guard at a burial.  Slowly the movements become more and more dance-like until it has merged from into a very theatrical, character-based dance.

The dancers’ movements are specific and evocative, and they are all fully committed, not only to the choreography, but their characters.  They enact funeral attendees, births, deaths, and everything in between, all with the sense of a few Victorian busybodies with an unusual level of grace.

As a showcase, Dance in Vancouver features works that are not quite finished, like Made in China, and snippets of finished pieces like Highgate, with the goal of bringing British Columbia’s contemporary dance scene together in one place.  There are many more programs to check out, and the result is certainly an adventure worth experiencing, with an open mind.

Dance in Vancouver continues through November 23, 2013.  Visit http://thedancecentre.ca for tickets and information.

Andrea LoewenAndrea is a theatre-maker, yoga instructor, writer and ally to the LGBTQ community in Vancouver. She spends her days as the Communications Manager for Pacific Theatre, and is Co-Artistic Producer for Xua Xua Productions, a founding member of Les Petites Taquines Dance Theatre, and the marketing chair for the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Society. She writes a weekly column for VancouverisAwesome.com and freelances as a yoga instructor and choreographer. When she has some down time she enjoys some green tea and quality time with her cat, Miss Gertie Marie.

Follow Andrea on Twitter or find her online at http://www.andrealoewen.com.

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