This past week at Monument-National, Parts+Labour_Danse delivered an exhilarating display of the trailblazing creative force of Montreal’s contemporary dance scene. Founded in 2011 by the phenomenally talented Emily Gualtieri and David Albert-Toth – both alumni of Concordia’s Contemporary Dance Department – the bilingual young company premiered their outstanding new creation, In Mixed Company, preceded by a reprise of the solo performance La Chute.
Such formidable talent and authenticity from so young a company are rare things. Thoroughly engaging from start to finish, never once derivative or banal, the work is audacious and discerning in its creative invocation of elements of theatre, poetry – and at one point a rousing lip synch(!) – which infuse the whole with emotional depth and maturity, and structure it into a cohesive and solid form. Indeed, in a medium where works can sometimes sink into self-indulgence or float away in hazes of abstraction, In Mixed Company keeps its feet on the ground and finds the right balance between substance and style. This is contemporary dance to sink your teeth into.
Yet this is not to say that Parts+Labour’s new work shies away from the conceptual. To the contrary, the force of the work is precisely in its layering of philosophical, aesthetic and narrative planes to craft a creation that feels both genuine in its source and complete in its expression. Inspired by the oeuvres of Czech novelist Milan Kundera and Romanian Theatre of the Absurd playwright Eugene Ionesco – the latter being a recurrent source of inspiration for the duo – the work explores the pursuit of intimacy in the modern era, and the futility of desire frustrated by the omipresence of social codes.
The impressive technical and theatrical strength of performers Milan Panet-Gigon, Jody Hegel, Caroline Gravel and Lael Stallick carried this exploration to its most potent extent. Their graceful and emotive interpretations of Gualtieri and Albert-Toth’s exceptional choreographies were at times so visceral that they brought audience members to cramp up as our bodies instinctually strove to empathize with the dancers.
Parts+Labour_Danse offer an invigorating glimpse into the rising generation of contemporary dance creators in Montreal. Be sure not to miss their next performance, because this company is going places, and potentially quite far.