A Choreographic Work by Andrea Nann
A Dreamwalker Dance Company Production
for NextSteps Mainstage Series
Harbourfront Centre Theatre, October 19-21, 2018
Andrea Nann’s 60-minute dance piece is a splendid demonstration of how movement (when allied to intertwining voices) can provoke meditation on human memorials to our interconnectedness with one another, space, and time. It is a profoundly personal work, in which which dancer-choreographer Nann (indisputably one of our national treasures) re-introduces herself to herself via a monologue addressed to her audience. Born in Vancouver to Chinese parents, Nann dreamed of living on a planet with two suns (East and West). Now 51, and as elegantly supple and sinuous as ever, she subscribes to the Taoist belief that humans express the bridge between heaven and earth. Her piece is non-linear, being, in effect, a collage of music, lighting, spoken word, minimal scenography, and dance movement—quick with thought, passion, and changing affinities. To appreciate Dual Light fruitfully, it is important to join our concentration with that of the dancers, and leave ourselves open to its distinctive amorphousness.
On a largely bare stage, except for four chairs and a large overhanging tilted silver rectangle that can be lowered and shifted at different angles, Dual Light may seem pretentiously abstract—almost a repetition of a popular fallacy that modern dance can equal philosophy. The large tilted silver rectangle doesn’t really work in any appreciable way to enhance meaning or scenic effect, and therefore seems like a possibly good idea gone wrong, but while Dual Light investigates dimensions of knowing and seeing, sensing and acting, it remains rooted in palpable, incarnate images of the human body in delicate or tense semaphores, flurries of motion or passive instances of thoughtful silence. Not for nothing is there a soundtrack of a beautiful Chinese version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” where the quartet of dancers (two Asian, two Caucasian) sit quietly listening to the lyric, rhythm, and tone of the haunting ballad. The dancers derive their impulses to move, to configure, to incarnate from vibrations, whether from music or from spoken word or an inner psychological compulsion. Nann is heard in recorded conversation with her 87-year old father, a distinguished former professor who, after his wife’s death, sold his Vancouver home and moved to Toronto to live with her and her small family. What Professor Nann (I remember his being a very elegant, articulate man from my one and only brief meeting with him many years ago) discusses is the theme of leavings, whether through death or in life itself. And his daughter (who clearly has a tender, loving relationship with him) expresses this bitter-sweet wisdom about creative acceptance or acquiescence through her choreography of enlarged arcs, tilts, sweeps of the body, and intertwining limbs.
The general choreographic emphasis is on a low centre of gravity, where the dancer finds an axis close to the floor. There are some stunning sequences: Yuichiro Inoue and Kristy Kennedy (who now lives in the U.S.) perform a delicate duet of slowly moving cupped hands; Inoue also has a striking solo where his body vibrates to the exact beat of a Japanese recitative; Kennedy delivers a touching soliloquy that is truly a prose poem and then demonstrates her dynamic vocabulary of movement; Brendan Wyatt and Andrea Nann complement each other and the other two perfectly in their expressions of supportive intimacies. Just as the sound design by Joshua Van Tassel (merging Skydiggers, The King’s Singers, Kitakabe, and the Graduates with sheer vibrations) is a form of investigation, so are the dances and the dancers’ personal narratives. There are strong leanings, arcs of arm and leg, where physical presence elicits choice and consequence, but the exquisitely unfolding of the piece is gentle, liminal, and skilfully resonant with feeling and thought. One of the underlying moods is melancholy at the passage of loved ones, but this melancholy is not an end in itself: it reaches for some fundamental existential wisdom in personal narratives and a path forward in life with what Keats once called “negative capability.”