Dance International Magazine Winter 2012
TORONTO SCENE by Michael Crabb
As the new season opened, veteran choreographer Julia Sasso fulfilled the wish of Ann Southam by bringing to the stage her dance visualization of the late Canadian composer’s minimalist, introspective and mysterious piano score, Simple Lines of Enquiry. Sasso chose the acronym SLoE as the work’s title.
Even as she was composing the hour-long work, Southam, a staunch believer in supporting female artists, commissioned Sasso to choreograph a self-performed solo to it. As the project evolved, Sasso decided, with Southam’s approval, that she’d prefer to remain on the sidelines and make it a group piece.
Choreographing to such an intensely personal piece of music, one that demands close listening, even through its strategic silences, must have been a major challenge. Sasso boldly responded with a physically intense, dynamically varied dance for five women and a lone man that, as the work unfolds, becomes not so much an illustration as emotional counterpoint to the score — performed live, onstage by Eve Egoyan, for whom it was written.
Sasso likes big, bold, gutsy movement and there’s plenty of it in SLoE, but there are also moments of stillness that echo the pregnant pauses between Southam’s successive, questioning lines of notes. Sasso offers images that cover a gamut of human experience and emotion. They’re tender and aggressive, forceful and tentative, communal and individualistic. There is no discernable narrative although the interactions of the cast naturally suggest particular situations. Yet, by the end of SLoE, one is left with the same sense of life’s imponderability that is at the heart of Southam’s sparse yet deeply moving music.
REVIEWED BY TED FOX FOR EVIDANCERADIO.COM
In SLoE--Simple Lines of Enquiry, pianist Eve Egoyan plays Ann Southam's Simple Lines of Enquiry for solo piano, a composition that is minimalist and atonal, and has a lulling trance-like effect. Julia Sasso counterpoints this with a highly charged visceral movement vocabulary that is strongly executed by the dancers.
When I saw SLoE I was sitting on stage in seats not far from where Eve Egoyan was playing the piano and very close to the dancers. This created an intimacy with the dancers, having the music entering my body, hearing and feeling the dancers’ exhaustion and breathing, and seeing quite clearly their facial expressions. This close viewing prevented me from seeing the visual shapes and patterns that I would have seen had I been in the tiered seating in front of the dance.
Here is ia stream-of-consciousness look at what I saw and felt, ending with some personal lines of enquiry.
Dancers as musical notes embodied in their bodies like a life force, driving their movements, caught in repetitive interconnections of bodies meeting, colliding, sliding, whirling, arms lifting skywards, legs kicking out, bodies hurling to the floor. Pushing one into the others, slamming them into the floor, elongated pauses in which a dancer here and there gently lifts, caresses an exhausted other, touching their faces, registering concern. Fixing their gazes on each other, competitive, indifferent, enticing, judgemental, trying to make connections in moments no longer there.
Why does the domino effect of the interconnections call to mind pedestrian movement in the streets--bodies brushing against the other, no connections made in the fleeting moments, isolated and lonely figures in a crowd? Why do I feel their exhaustion, sense of frustration and impending death? What is the lone male dancer feeling? Does his presence raise gender issues? Why do I feel a sense of competitive gazes in relation to this male? Would there be a difference in the texture of the piano notes had a male played the piece? Is Southam's music and the breathing and footwork sounds of the dancers directing how her body reacts and feels, how her fingers hit the piano keys?
There is always a sense of aesthetics in the way Sasso uses the long, white floor and the wide space to emphasize the psychological and physical distance between them and us. Egoyan and the piano become periodic respites for the dancers, as they move around it slowly, as if drawn to the source that feeds and controls them, waiting for direction, gazing at each other as a group but alone.
Interesting how the title of this work raised questions from a gender and societal perspective. Result is compelling and visually arresting.