I didn’t know quite what to expect. Aside from the fact that all the publicity material was in French (let’s not talk about my comprehension), it was also fairly cryptic. “Prenez un verre et faites vos choix de tête-à-tête,” the flyer proclaimed. One-on-one performances? Sure, I can get into that. Then, “Prix spéciaux pour les dentistes!” Wait, what? All in all, it promised an evening of dance, visual art, horticulture, theatre, and interior design. In no particular order.
It became clearer upon arrival, when I walked into a third floor space on St Laurent set up with a table holding place cards with eight names; Aurélie Pédron, Catherine Tardif, Michel F Côté, Marie-Claire Forté, Daniel Soulières, Martine Viale, Nicolas Rivard and Jacqueline Van de Geer (alias Steeve Dumais). I was invited to choose which performer I would like to see first, second and third etc, then seated at a table to wait.
First up was Aurélie Pédron, whose work La Maison Chair was performed in a small dark room. Additionally, I was blindfolded and headphoned for the first five minutes (mellifluous soundtrack of digeridoo and television static, if you’re wondering). The performance itself was Pédron in a small white nightie, squeezed inside a small mesh house, Alice-in-Wonderland style. She plays with a nightmarish doll, goes into seizure, rinse and repeat. Reader, have you seen different versions of this same basic premise about a million times over the years? Or is it just me? N’importe quoi, looking back on my notes on this piece, I had written just one line: “if Salad Fingers had gone to dance school.”
After Pédron, I saw Michel F. Côté, a composer for dance. He led me to his car outside and invited me to get in. Now, it’s been many years since I sat in a parked car with a strange boy but I was happy to make an exception in the name of Art. He pulled out an electric sitar, turned on a valium-voiced recording and started to play. It was simultaneously hypnotic and just a little bit awkward. He played with authority and a quiet assurance.
The next was a tête-à-tête with Jacqueline van de Geer. She sat me down, put on a timer and said “You can ask me anything you like in the next ten minutes and I will tell you.” So I asked her to tell me about her first love. It was quite an entertaining story, involving Rotterdam, a fake fur coat, red satin shoes and a teenage boy called Paul. “I’d seen him around the clubs, he was a good dancer,” van de Geer confided in her lilting Dutch accent. Her performance was like a slumber party with a total stranger and I actually found myself enjoying it quite a lot. Conceptually, I’m sure it’s been done before. But the lady knows how to tell a story, that’s for sure. There was nothing to report on, dance-wise, except for the very end when she pulled me up for a slow dance to conclude the performance.
Finally, I spent my last ten minutes in a balloon-filled enclosure with Nicholas Rivard, who asked me to take his pulse and then visually depict it on a balloon with a sharpie. He taught me some new Quebecois slang and I told him a story about my brother who used to be an officer in the New Zealand Navy. Then I popped a balloon with a needle, bid him adieu and walked out into the night air. I can still smell the balloons and my hair took about an hour to shake the static.
I still don’t know what I think about the assortment of performances that I saw. I certainly have a lot of visual motifs to sift back through, and each work was quite memorable and distinct. But in their efforts to break down audience barriers and create a new dynamic between performer and audience, I wonder whether the artists relied too much on gimmicks. Balloons! Sensory deprivation! Car-as-theatre! Sleep-over confessional! Was it too much? Perhaps. Did I enjoy it overall? Actually I did.
Petits Canapés en Salle de Montre was part of the Soirée de nano performance at Danse Danse. It was a one-night only show on May 17 at La Elastica, 4602 blvd St Laurent.