Provincial Essays

Dates 3 - 10 May 2007, 8pm Venue Scotiabank Dance Centre Reviewer John Jane

Performers Ron Stewart, Caroline Farquhar, Susan Kania, Andrea Keevil, and Ziyian Kwan

The Lola MacLaughlin Dance Company staged the eagerly awaited, world premiere of Provincial Essays last weekend. Ms MacLaughlin’s imaginative, non-linear work guides the audience through a dozen and a half choreographic vignettes that explore elements of the natural world and the impact of urban landscapes.

The work begins anomalously on a bare stage floor save for three portable stage lamps and a centrally positioned microphone. Two dancers (Andrea Keevil, Ziyian Kwan) perform a prolegomenon of the choreographer’s proprietary dance lexicon. As the movements, or in some cases, basic postures are randomly presented, a description and number is announced by the performer. No. 9, "Spaghetti Girl" was followed by No. 38, "Sitting on the Beach." Initially, I found this device to be somewhat gratuitous, since I prefer to seek my own interpretation of dance syntax; however, I later found it a useful guide.

Subsequent sections of the work are an eclectic conspectus ranging from cogent contortions aided by clever sound effects to more tangible creations performed with recorded accompaniment as varied as Kad Achouri’s hip-hop rhythms or the exotic Fado music of Antonio Zambujo.

The most accessible sections are the "Seascape Collection" and the "Bird Group." The former is one of only two ensemble pieces interpreting pelagic elements entitled: the westerlies, sea foam and whitecaps. The sequence is looped with further repetitions accelerated. The latter is a miscellany of declared gestures that broadly relate to the behaviour of birds, such as "broken wing" and "in the wind."

MacLaughlin’s choreography is certainly aesthetic, with a distinct international predilection no doubt influenced from her time working in Europe. James Proudfoot’s intelligent lighting, and Andreas Kahre’s projected images provide the work with breadth and depth.

The five performers are highly talented, and each brings an individual dimension to the production. The small but responsive audience applauded their passion, as evidenced when, with their bodies visibly glistening with perspiration, the dancers returned to the stage for a double ovation.

© 2007 John Jane