AUDIENCE REVIEW: Common Threads Weave Five Pieces into One in 'PROXIMITY'
March 4, 2021
PROXIMITY - a collection of short works features five dances woven into one mesmerizing 50 minute performance. Co-presented between the Dance Centre and PuSh Festival, the stream features two choreographies created by, and two pieces danced by, Joshua Beamish, and a dance film he co-produced. Each piece is tied to the others in their use of light, sound, movement and videography.
Slow soundscapes play throughout the collection. Each soundtrack is made of similar elements including soft voices, natural and ambient sounds, powerful pauses, and gentle beats. PROXIMITY’s mellow music and dancing affects my breathing and heart rhythms, leaving me in a state of tranquility.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s choreography Redemption stands out — I’m so mesmerized by this gorgeous solo that I forget to take notes. Stringed instruments accompany soft chanting voices, and bells toll. The piece feels like a religious ceremony, performed for the stage lights. Beamish’s tattered costume and calm, steady dancing also suggest a practiced ritual.
While sometimes lively, and sometimes meditative, the dancer’s movements remain calm and steady throughout PROXIMITY. They move easily, reaching out for someone or something. Renée Sigouin dances alone on an empty stage in Lost Touch, yet seems totally comfortable, her energy turned inward. We don’t get the impression that she needs anything outside of herself, she’s just feeling around.
Every piece except for the video are filmed in a black box theatre. Unlike many digital dance offerings, they were clearly filmed with digital viewing in mind. We enter into a 3D space, rather than a flat stage with a static camera, making the audience feel closer to the performance. At times the camera is so close we can see tiny, involuntary movements, or all the details of a dancer’s hand. In Falling Upward, co-directed by Joshua Beamish and Scott Fowler, Beamish runs and jumps along railroad tracks. The camera is constantly in motion, following, spinning, adding to the dancer’s motion.
James Lightfoot’s lighting is as important as the videography in determining what we see and what we don’t. The lights create shapes and shadows that add to the dancing, highlighting one part of the body, hiding another. Kirsten Wicklund’s choreography Ablaze Amongst the Fragments of Your Sky sees the lights come up on one half of the stage, with Beamish on the boundary between light and dark.
The title piece, Proximity, raises questions on the nature of connection. At first it seems more like two simultaneous solos danced by Beamish and Sigouin, rather than a duet. They touch once, then dance separately a few feet apart, occasionally synching their staccato movements for a moment before continuing on alone. As the music speeds up they begin to touch themselves and the space around each other, as if becoming more aware both inwardly and outwardly, finally dancing together at the end.
The main theme across all five pieces is human connection. Connection with the self, others, nature, a spirit or deity. The want and need for these connections are seen throughout PROXIMITY, whether the dancers find what they are searching for or not.