Culture & Conversation

Khaos Reigns

Montréal choreographer Ginette Laurin’s offering to Festival TransAmérique this year is an intricate “microsociety” in which endless dynamics are played out: love triangles, siblings, friends, partners,  and enemies. Created in Madrid in 2012 and subsequently presented in Paris, Khaos is billed as “a subtle marriage of movement, sound, lighting and digital technology.” Laurin’s company, O Vertigo, is impossibly young and gorgeous and their performance exhibited extremely good technique. For me, there are two telltale signs of top-dog contemporary training: partnering and floorwork. The dancers of O Vertigo have both in spades.

The partnering was fluid, sensitive and ballsy. Flying kicks to shoulders! Flinging rubbery legs! It’s jolly good stuff. With fixed smiles and wooden limbs, the dancers become each others’ puppeteers, physically manipulating each other in disturbingly funny interactions.  Laurin’s movement vocabulary is intensely physical and also highly gestural, verging on mime but more idiosyncratic.

Aaaaand, who should I see dancing onstage but Hapless Audience Member! I’m 92% certain it was him, and if someone could verify this for me, I’d be eternally grateful. Hey HAM! Sorry about that unfortunate nickname. Turns out his real name is Andrew Turner and he’s been dancing with Laurin for the last couple of years. Goes to show that Montréal’s dance scene is a thriving little ecosystem – which is reassuring.

The set for Khaos was minimal, with a sparse forest of wooden poles sticking straight up from the ground and stopping around ear-height. An abstract wooden cloud hanging ominously overhead meant to signify the multiple perils threatening the world onstage. The dancing began in unison, with more dancers joining the action and then breaking out of the herd in pairs to begin painting little vignettes that continue all the way through the 70 minute performance. My favourite interaction was a furtive love triangle between Turner, Marianne Gignac-Girard and Wen-Shuan Yang. Turner and Gignac-Girard played out an obvious magnetism, with Wen-Shuan attempting fruitlessly to ingratiate herself with Turner to heartbreakingly funny effect. Another memorable moment was watching several dancers execute a floor shuffle in which they blindly bang into each other like robotic vacuum cleaners getting around the furniture.

There were things about this show that, whilst not bad per se, were nothing I’d not seen before: the blippy soundscape, for example– why does every choreographer and their grandmother opt for this instead of music? Often it can be quite interesting in its dissonance but, for me, it always lacks emotion. The other thing that I see aaaall-the-bloody-time is street clothes standing in for costumes. And can I have one more little gripe? Just one? The theatre was way too hot. Was the ac broken that night ? What was going on, Usine C? I don’t want to have to wear my bikini to the theatre if I can help it.

All in all, Khaos has some wonderful moments of pathos and hilarity bundled up in a hyperactive wee package. According to Laurin, it illustrates the “cohabitation des différences sur l’incompatibilité entre les individus…” I’m not sure where the leg-humping scene from Khaos fits into that, but I’m sure we can make it work.

Khaos, O Vertigo, played at Festival TransAmerique on  4 + 5 June

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