Review: Compagnie Marie Chouinard in bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERG_ vARIATIONS at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 7 & 8 May 2010
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Monday 10 May 2010

Compagnie Marie Chouinard 'bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERG_ vARIATIONS' Sadler's Wells, 7-8 May. Photo: Marie Chouinard

Reviewed: 7 May 2010

A ballet dancer with just one foot en pointe limping and hopping ungainly, another squeaking her way across the stage atop a wheeled platform, others forced to stoop on child-size crutches whilst yet another, topless, but sporting a tutu, scoots her way upon a three-wheeled stool. Welcome to the somewhat bizarre but highly inventive world of Marie Chouinard.

The Sadler’s Wells debut billing of the Montreal-based Compagnie Marie Chouinard left many striking and resonant images in my mind. In stark contrast to the typically gracious and elegant ballet persona, Chouinard’s dancers are made grotesque, pitiful and humorous as they wear little other than the assortment of crutches and poles that are strategically angled from different body parts.

A female duo exaggeratedly extend their right legs, which happen to be strapped together, whilst stepping assertively en pointe with their left legs. Later, two women are attached by elastic cords at their wrists and legs so that as one lifts her hand, she causes her partner’s opposite foot to lift. They manipulate each others’ limbs from one end of the stage to the other like a pair of expert puppeteers. Driven like a horse, a male dancer can barely propel himself and his two masters forward, and constantly stumbles at the weight of his load.

The ballet barre is no longer a symbol of rigueur and precision but rather serves as a perch for one dancer to lounge and straddle. Several others accompany her and in a parody of the daily ballet class, they thrust forward their hips and throw their torsos with abandon. Two male dancers drape their arms over the barres and their bodies alternatively rise and sink in a fluid sexual motion.

A sextet parade on all fours with feet and hands in blocked shoes before taking bourrée-like steps, their wrists flexed at the ends of their raised arms, their encased hands seem to survey and peck at the space like long-necked birds.

Chouinard has a wide understanding of various techniques, allowing her to explore and expand her choreography. Throughout the work, dancers are harnessed like aerialists allowing them to jump across the heads of others or entwine in a sexually charged mid-air embrace.

Voice and sound also enhance and drive the movement, and composer Louis Dufort uses his electro-acoustic style and vocal recordings to reinterpret Bach’s Goldberg Variations, as played by pianist Glenn Gould. Both Dufort’s remixes as well as Bach’s original versions shape and transform the choreographic pulse. At one point, a microphone is placed upstage into which dancers whine, sigh, breathe and wail, adding flavour and feeling to the movement.

Well-known for creating controversial and shocking work for over two decades, Chouinard is not afraid to push her choreography and cast beyond the realm of the comfortable and the everyday. Body_Remix/Goldeberg_Variations also challengesour expectations of contemporary dance but in a very real and immediate way. The dancers, distorted and extreme as they appear, remain convincingly human, for as Chouinard insists, “They’re the ones incarnating [the movement] with a degree of truth.” It’s a work that will offer new insights with each viewing.

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