by Lynn on June 15, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Hearn Generating Station, 440 Unwin Ave, Toronto, Ont.

Created by The Holy Body Tattoo and Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Directed by Dana Gingras
Choreographed by Noam Gagnon and Dana Gingras
Music by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Lighting by Marc Parent
Performers: Caroline Graval
Louise-Michel Jackson
Kim de Jong
Shay Kuebler
Nic Lydiate
Louis- Elyan Martin
Esther Rousseau-Morin
Sovann Prom Tep
Jamie Wright

Art imitates life and vice versa with this raw, violent, angry dance piece that certainly leaves one shaken after the Orlando massacre.

Choreographers Noam Gagnon and Dana Gingras immediately bonded when they met in 1997. They shared a “huge need to fiercely and violently push our bodies and selves in a way few people, or the culture around us, could tolerate.” (From the Luminato brochure). This has certainly carried over into their choreography for Monumental. Their company, The Holy Body Tattoo with rock group Godspeed You! Black Emperor “ (playing live) come together in an explosion of contemporary dance and post-rock music that shatters the façade of capitalist urban culture.” (I have no idea what “capitalist urban culture” means). After seeing and ‘hearing’ the show, I would think our ear-drums as well as the “façade…” are targets for shattering. Everyone is given a packet of ear plugs because we are told the music will be loud. In fact at times the music is ear splitting.

For me this show is about anger, violence, isolation, loneliness and frustration in the workplace and socially. And while I usually can’t fathom why music must be played so loud you can’t even make out that it is music, it makes perfect sense here. The ear-splitting music is part of the oppression each performer is conveying.

Each of the nine members of The Holy Body Tattoo stands atop a square plinth, isolated, solitary. Their movements are violent with each constantly bashing their fists in their hands, jerking violently, rubbing imaginary dirt or stains from their hands, scratching, twitching, bending over quickly and just as quickly jerking up straight. Hair flips and slashes the air—no demure buns or pony tails for the women.

When the solitary performers engage with those on the other plinths it is with anger and hand gestures suggesting contempt and insults. When they come down from their platforms they writhe on the floor and flip through the air in fierce, bold movements. It’s as if they are acting and moving out of desperation.

The focus and concentration is compelling. Text is flashed on screens at the sides and the back of the Music Stage to accompany the dancing at times. There is no credit for the text. There are thoughts on trust; being suspicious of someone compelled to be kind to you, but most of it is so much esoteric claptrap.

The performance seemed to end three times, with some audience members tentatively (uncertainly) applauding followed with the de rigueur yelps of exuberance only to be embarrassed when the dancing continued. You know the show is really over when all the dancers leave the stage one by one and the lights go down.

Considering the terrible happening in Orlando this Sunday, Monumental hits a raw nerve regarding our angry, violent culture. It doesn’t offer solutions, just a mirror to hold up as art imitates life.

Monumental plays June 15, 2016. (It was only programmed for two performances).

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