Animals of Distinction & Holy Body Tattoo

Dates 8 - 12 May 2007, 8pm Venue Vancouver East Cultural Centre Reviewer John Jane

Performers Dana Gingras, Sarah Doucet, Susan Elliott, Sonja Perreten and Si˘ned Watkins

Physical theatre took on an extra dimension in this production of Smash Up at the “Cultch”. Only an audacious artist like Dana Gingras would have the chutzpah to invite patrons to see her show and then ask them to spend half an hour in a gusty car park waiting for the action to start.

As a part of the show’s precept, the audience would not see all five dance units together. Each person was given a face card which would direct them in two separate groups – “Bear Team” and “Bunny Team” – and then be ushered to various sections of the theatre.

Gingras offers some awesome ideas and complex choreography that uses the considerable collective talent at her disposal. Unfortunately, some of the dancing is far too abstract for an audience to connect with. It all starts off well enough with Susan Elliott’s breathtaking free-form dancing to Skinny Puppy’s over-processed industrial score performed against projected rolling images on a stark white schim extending across the stage floor.

Audience members already seated on the balcony were allowed to remain for the next component, the oddly titled I Am a Chain Reaction – a horizontal performance by Dana Gingras and Sarah Doucet, which in essence, is physical “Snakes and Ladders” in real time.

For Sonja Perreten’s hyperkinetic A Million Tiny Robots in your Head, the audience is relocated to the lobby. The dancer’s mix of strength and fearless abandon is at times totally mesmerizing. The score is a brutal combination of hip-hop and experimental funk, but Perreten’s performance neutralizes the music’s harshness.

In complete contrast, Perreten next performs Davey Jones Locker in the audiorium wearing a scuba mask and flippers. She articulates the resistance of several fathoms with physical clarity and tempo.

Those who decided to leave at the intermission didn’t miss much. Quartet is actually a piece performed by a trio. Its ambiguous theme of apocalyptic survival tenders a monotonous pace and the choreography is less dynamic than in earlier routines.

Go and see Smash Up. You might even find the experience mind-blowing – just don’t try to understand it.

© 2007 John Jane