Embracing powerful topics through the art of dance is nothing new. Choreographers play around with different themes and subject matters, all trying to convey their thoughts through movement. The artists who portray these themes each have a different take on the dance.
On Friday, the Blackwood Gallery hosted a unique dance performance entitled Weather. Weather is a performance by four dancers of Anandam Dancetheatre choreographed by Brandy Leary, and focuses on the global ecological crisis and how it affects our landscapes and our lives. The solo performances, also called vignettes, embody the different weather patterns.
Leary explains, “Weather is a site-specific piece and it looks at how large historical processes and unstable economies fall in on themselves. I see it showing up the most in our landscapes and in our bodies. We structured a piece to look at the elemental forces using wind and water. Looking at wind, water, storms, and flooding that affects our landscapes.”
Interestingly, the idea was sparked by an exploration in Iceland during the production of a previous performance titled Glaciology.
“I felt like the glaciers were in pain and I followed my curiosity, which brought me to create Weather,” said Leary.
Unlike most dance performances, which are usually viewed in a single venue, Weather takes its audience on a journey through various sites on campus—and there’s a twist. Weather’s score is only heard by the audience’s ears—not the performers. Each performance was a solo depicting a different weather element full of intensified and fluid movement. The score is appropriately titled Weather by James Bunton.
Outside the MiST theatre, a male dancer stands silent against the dark wall. The first performance, titled “Endangered Species”, was performed by Michael Caldwell, a dancer and interpreter based in Toronto.
“My solo addresses how landscape and the body are affected by colonialism, the environmental decay, and different animals, species, and plants that have been heavily affected by these things,” says Caldwell. His performance was slow and steady. Balance was a main factor playing in the routine as he held himself by his arms with his legs floating in the air. His depiction of endangered species brings out their vulnerability, evoking emotion from the audience.
Leary guided the group to the next site, where Amy Hampton performed “Way of Water”. Hampton portrays the liquid with fluid and soft lines, using the bar and staircase on the third floor of the Instructional Centre to her advantage. Hampton stretches her entire body, emulating the flow of water in a thunderstorm as she eventually makes her way down the steps using her back instead of her feet.
“This is an exploration of the element of water and how it affects our bodies. The water within our bodies and water as a vessel, water that carries us through history and the travels across water. How water infiltrates many aspects of our lives,” Hampton explains.
Back outside MiST, Louis Laberge-Cote performs “Shrinking Habitat”. “It’s a very dramatic section, very contained and pressed down,” he says. Very dramatic indeed. Laberge-Cote begins on his back and slowly makes his way down the wall outside of the theatre. He sluggishly pushes himself down the wall to meet the ground. He performs with striking movements of his arms and legs, demonstrating the devastation and dwindling future of habitats. When asked about the difficulty of performing without knowledge of timing, he responds, “It’s a bit of a guessing game. This performance is so dramatic, [it’s] hard to keep sense of time.”
The last solo performance took place at the Instructional Centre, this time beginning with Ryan Lee, a graduate of the Ryerson dance program, sitting cross-legged on the edge of the top of the staircase. By imitating meditation positions, Lee performs “Way of Wind”. Lee defies gravity and places his entire mind and body in a trance to complete the performance. Lee is in tune and highly concentrated, tumbling down the steps, twirling, and suddenly halting and balancing on one leg. Lee demonstrates the most edgy performance of the four.
I enjoyed Weather because it was unique in its presentation and focused on a global issue. Even though each piece was slow and gradual, it seemed like time stopped for a few minutes and I really felt connected to the performers.