Fringe Fest Dance Review: "Oppo" by Imbroglio
Oppo: Aerial Silk, a game of cards, a lot of costumes, animal instincts, a man, and a woman very much in control. Add some original scores and a little bit of video projection and you've got yourself a touch of circus and a whole lot of art appreciation ahead of you.
In the grand scheme of contemporary dance, on a scale of 1 to "Beyond Confusing", Imbroglio's production at this year's St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival falls somewhere around a comfortable 5. The two co-founders of Imbrioglio, choreographers and dancers Caroline Rochefort and Stu McIntyre, have created a two performance show that has a lot of satisfying moments. Rochefort opens the show with a solo work ("Cheyen") of slow, animal-like movements followed by sequences on two bands of silk suspended from the low ceiling of Tangente Theatre. If you've ever seen Cirque du Soleil, well, Rochefort's approach and intentions on the aerial silks are completely different. Behind her is a projection of a horse, meant to represent the animal nature of the dancer. Mostly the projection is distracting from the impressive demonstration on the pieces of silk. At Cirque du Soleil everything seems easy, and it's not that Rochefort makes it look hard, but just that since you sit so close to the stage, you see every red mark that the silk leaves upon her skin. You can examine what her feet are doing to wrap around the silk to climb to the top, or how her legs and arms are intricately tangled in the twists of the material to support her when she turns or falls. You see every muscle flex in her open-backed top.
The whole human-animal idea didn't really work for me, mostly because Rochefort's movements were too graceful and pretty. When the music changed to a more rhythmic and glitchy beat her fluid movements didn't correspond, and suddenly the audience is left feeling confused by Hugues Cl├ęment's original score for the work. Later in the piece Rochefort's movements seem very strong, but much more like a tiger or an ape than a horse slow-motion galloping horse. Maybe I'm too picky with my animal metaphors.
Still, there are moments of beauty, especially through the coordination of the music with the sudden aerial silk movements. Rochefort's timing is impeccable.
...And now for something completely different. Well, almost. The second piece, "Oppo", makes sense of the horse metaphor! The piece starts as a frustrating game of cards without an obvious purpose or set of rules - nothing animal-like about it - but makes for a nice counterpart to the first piece of the show, "Cheyen". Even though "Oppo" was created before Cheyen (for last year's Montreal Festival de Jazz), the human-to-human and human-to-animal connection is...um...more obvious. Rochefort is joined by the all-too-human Stu McIntyre. The two dancers challenge each other in an unspoken competition, and Rochefort very much wins from the outset. McIntyre's movements seem un-sharp by comparison, but this is maybe the point.
The interaction between the two is at first strained and unconvincing - fake pushes and far-too-planned lifts that pose as attacks - but by the end of the piece there is enough of a climax and reconciliation to make a believer of me. This one's for the easily-convinced romantic, not the skeptical cynic. You have to want to believe. Like Never Never Land.
McIntyre proves his worth with a few impressive movements and positions, but the dance styles of the two performers don't match up. Just like in the work's frustrating game of cards, the woman definitely holds the upper hand.
You can catch Oppo at the Montreal Fringe Festival for yourself on:
Tues. June 15 - noon
Thurs. June 17 - 7:45pm
Fri. June 18 - 8:45pm
Sun. June 20 - 1:45pm
Where: Tangente (840 rue Cherrier East)
How: Tickets available at Fringe Park (St-Laurent at Rachel) until 2 hours before showtime, online at www.montrealfringe.ca or by phone at 514-849-FEST until 11pm the night before the show. Or you can buy tickets at Tangente 1 hour before the show (cash only).