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push festival

the space between: a triangle of trust

anna russell

Anna Russell is a Vancouver writer and filmmaker who is also an analyst with the Canadian Federal Government.

David Carberry, Darcy Grant, The Space Between David Carberry, Darcy Grant, The Space Between
photo John Donegan
A happy man stands still. He is alone. Suddenly, he falls straight back in a scissor-blade movement of rapidly diminishing angles. At the last moment, he averts disaster with a backwards roll. He will repeat the movement multiple times until it has lost the sense of risk. What follows is probably dangerous but, even though it is imbued with the acrobatics and trapeze work of a circus show, it doesn’t depend on our fear and amazement to move us.

Forget the ancient ideal of the golden rectangle; Australia’s Circa tells us the new model of physical beauty is the triangle. There is one hidden in the white handkerchief a performer holds taught between her toes, and a larger one in the shape made between her legs and the fabric, through which a man can leap. There are more triangles in the piked forms, the bodies cantilevered off each other, the space between elbow and ribs, between some unusual combination of back, legs, floor. There is an ever-changing triangle at the centre, even as one man dances a full circle around his own arm. The music moves through Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen and a selection of electronica, but it also begins with the mathematical beauty of Bach.

Projections light the floor part way through. Random letters, different grids, the mechanical approximation of a fingerprint whorl—most of the images reinforce the sense of math and geometry. One projection slowly spins a computer-generated pattern of three-dimensional triangles, while a male performer creates every possible triangular shape with his body in that light. Somehow, it’s not reductionist to see a human body in that archetypal shape, it’s beautiful.

There are three performers (David Carberry, Darcy Grant, Chelsea McGuffin), and it’s tempting to look at that obvious triangle for the continuity in the performance. There is no narrative, but there are varying relationships. One man dominates McGuffin, balancing on the soles of her feet, or holding a handstand on her face. She leaves the stage right afterwards, diminished. But another time she gives new meaning to the phrase “she walked all over him”, or she pulls the other man’s limbs to create the angles she needs that will propel her own movement off his. The dancers use each other, play with, need and love, and maybe hurt each other. But the strength of the work has less to do with the emotional space between people than with an investigation of physical space.

Of course the movement is not all geometric. But geometry is one way the work allows us to see space in a new way, particularly, as the title indicates—The Space Between. The space between two men can be used to swing a woman; the space between her midriff and the floor, between her head and the floor, is reflected in the desperate trust in her eyes. The space between her clenched fingers and her palm is big enough to disappear the handkerchief. The space between her teeth means a man can hang her body from the trapeze with his hand in her mouth. The space between can be contracted and released to propel movement. The work wants to know every possible way that one body can move around another, through that shared space.

An exploration of the physical space between body and floor, or one body and another, doesn’t sound like a particularly interesting idea for a performance. Most dance does that. This piece is interesting because the choreography is skilled, inventive and playful, but mostly because of the well-integrated acrobatics. Suddenly the space between one person and another is a matter of safety. The stage is small and we are close. We trust the performers, but we can still see them eye the distance before they run, check the waiting hand that will throw them higher if they have judged the distance right, and only if they have judged it right.

In improvised dance in particular, two dancers can become so absorbed in the space between them that it seems the only thing to exist, and can absorb the audience wholly. That space isn’t triangular; it’s the antithesis of geometry. Circa’s work is far from improvised. Every space has been carefully calculated for safety or success, in the precise scale that will allow a human body to slip through, to climb, to spin. Despite the obvious effort required, despite the constant calculation, every so often the performers do hint at that other, more transcendent, space between.

Circa, The Space Between, created by Yaron Lifschitz and the Cira Ensemble, performed by David Carberry, Darcy Grant, Chelsea McGuffin, concept, direction, lights, sound design, multimedia and operation Yaron Lifschitz; Performance Works, Granville Island, Jan 22-26; PuSh International Festival of Performing Arts, Jan 16-Feb 3

Anna Russell is a Vancouver writer and filmmaker who is also an analyst with the Canadian Federal Government.

RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 8

© Anna Russell; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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