SummerWorks Lab 2018 Review: Double Bill: Katimajuit and One for Five

 

Katimajuit

Directed by Maziar Ghaderi

Performed by The Sila Singers: Malaya Bishop and Jenna Broomfield

Score by Saintfield: Clara Adams and Ali Jafri

Software design and visuals by Sahar Homami

 

One for Five

Choreography by Kristen-Innes Stambolic in collaboration with the dancers

Music by Frank Bretschneider, David Hildenbrant and Ejnar Kanding

Danced by Jordan Alleyne, Olivia Arcangeli, Yiming Cal, Tyra Temple-Smith and Claire Whitaker

 

The Theatre Centre, Franco Boni Theatre, Toronto

August 9-19, 2018

 

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

These two shows make an excellent double bill, both sharing genuine sweetness, clarity of vision, and an interesting and productive combination of traditional and innovative technological forms. Both were shown on an empty stage with a large white screen for video projection covering the back wall.

“Katimajuit” means “people meeting” in Inuktitut. The piece begins with a heartfelt acknowledgement of the traditional Indigenous territories on which the Theatre Centre is built, and a request to always acknowledge and be conscious of traditional territories.

On the stage before us sit The Sila Singers, Malaya Bishop and Jenna Broomfield, dressed in simple black and wearing headsets; one singer sings a traditional opening; the other carries a traditional drum and short drumstick. To the left of the stage, the two musicians comprising Saintfield, Clara Adams, with a keyboard and mic, and Ali Jafri, with drums and guitar, prepare.

As the two women begin to throat sing, a meditative feeling is created. The darkened screen at the back lights up with active white geometrical shapes that cross our visual field like a landscape viewed while travelling—up and down, in hills and vales, like skies and water recreated in simply drawn lines. The visuals shift and vary, while the two singer/dancers perform Inuit throat singing and dance, and explore the stage. At times they are people; at times they are creatures, confronting one another with teeth and claws, pushing back and forth on all fours, until they giggle and turn away.

Their voices are used as the source and power for the shifting screen visuals; these build and change with their singing. The guitar and keyboard join in with the throat singing. At one point, there is a loud frightening cracking sound, and the two women seem to become separated in a vast space. Though simple in action, this disorientation and distancing is emotionally complex, and as the two women wander and search for each other, the audience feels their lostness and wishes for them to reconnect. When they do find each other, grasping arms as throat singers do, and joyfully singing together and with the two musicians’ music, the screen’s visuals light up in beautiful blues and greens reminiscent of the Aurora Borealis, before altering to lines like sky and sea. The throat singers’ performances are by turns compelling, subtle and hypnotic with incredible breath control and range of sound. This is a powerful, inspiring and moving show.

To prepare for the next performance, One for Five, the dancers spend time during intermission laying down fluorescent tape on stage, in a curved abstract design. The desing’s arrow and circle are at once resonant with a contemporary and 1950s or earlier ethos. Coupled with the silvery-shiny stretchy tank tops and dark red trousers of the barefoot dancers, there is also a tinge of ’80s science fiction. As the screen at the back lights up with another version of the designs on the floor, truncated and active, the five dancers begin their variegated movements, and a sense of timeless gentleness is created.

One for Five is highly visual, formal yet soft-edged. The dancers, two men and three women, are constantly forming and moving into and out of individual shapes—arms or legs extended like birds’ wings, triangular and mainly vertical, with little horizontal floor work, connected with each other by touch or with glances. The effect is of joyful pattern-making, exploration of form, but without alienation—the feeling is not abstract, but lively, thoughtful and warm.

As the piece proceeds, the visuals on the screen shift and morph, until a large orange sun-like shape almost fills the back wall and travels across it. The music supports and enhances the performances, including gentle insistent percussion that adds force and energy, darkened with low cello notes, violin, bells tinging, and occasional syncopation.

The dancers— Jordan Alleyne, Olivia Arcangeli, Yiming Cal, Tyra Temple-Smith and Claire Whitaker—are impeccable in their execution of small solos, complex movement and difficult circling and position exchanges. Choreographer Kristen-Innes Stambolic creates a sensitive ebb and flow that feels at once intelligently artificial and charmingly natural. Sudden returns to identical movement appear and melt away again, flawlessly creating a vision of something like a living flower growing, but more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than that—perhaps the inner nature of an evolving society. This is an engaging and beautiful piece that won the Winchester Award from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre.