Mascall Dance at Hycroft Mansion

Choreography: Jennifer Mascall Featured Performers: Ziyian Kwan, Dean Makarenko, Jen Murray, Ron Stewart

Venue: The Hycroft Mansion Dates: 21-30 March 2003

Reviewer: Cheryl Rossi

Housewerk at Hycroft provided a pleasurable combination of extraordinary surroundings, entrancing music and intriguing movement.

Audience members crowded into the hall of the Edwardian mansion to witness two of the house’s young servants, apprentice dancers Sophie Allison and Keely Remillard, playing on the stairs, sliding down on their fronts, head first, falling up and jumping over one another to the piano sounds carrying from the drawing room. However, once the ladies of the house, Ziyian Kwan and Jen Murray, were spotted through the watery windows, decorum resumed.

Then, in the basement ballroom, DJ Jacob Cino’s music dictated the dance. Initially, a waltz prompted their movement with it’s momentarily slowed tempo making the dancers appear as though they were living in a jewelry box, as they too wound down, only to enliven with the music. At one point, when the music crashed and blustered, attention shifted to what might be threatening outside the window. Drum’n’bass, Inuit throat singing and classical waltzes fuelled the dancers and their shadows.

During the second half of the program, the dancers moved between three rooms with the audience members experiencing a performance in each.

In the dining room, Remillard and Katy Harris McLeod, another apprentice dancer, fought to look at a letter from the stable boy while setting the table. The playfully tense atmosphere became charged when Murray entered the room. With her inverted fists held clenched jaw height, elbows out, and her low lunges, she seemed deeply disturbed. It did not get any more comfortable when Dean Makarenko entered the room. Ron Stewart joined them briefly an argument seemingly broke out, with the three slapping the back of their hands for emphasis.

In the drawing room, Paul Plimley’s atmospheric piano playing set the scene. Stewart’s plight appeared incomprehensible as his large body shifted balance and rotated in lunges, at times with rigid inverted hands. Comic relief was provided when Remillard, Harris McLeod and Allison entered chanting household tasks, grabbing pillows from behind patrons and plumping them, and cleaning windows where viewers were peering in.

Finally, in the hall, Remillard spoke of the existence of ghosts in the house and an introspective Kwan danced. Though she also appeared somewhat troubled, her movements were less peculiar and more fluid than those of Stewart in the drawing room and Murray in the dining room. The intermingling of Remillard’s story, Cino’s music and the exquisite Kwan created a dream-like reverie.

Sometimes the combination of elements in Housewerk provoked and other times the dancing was curious, but the magnificent setting and excellent music made it an enjoyable experience.

2003, Cheryl Rossi