Chutzpah Festival Dance Double Bill: Action at a Distance and Radical System Art

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Dance Double Bill: Action at a Distance / Radical System Art | Chutzpah Festival | November 21 – 22, 2022

This double bill featuring premieres from two local Vancouver companies contrasted Vanessa Goodman’s Echo Chamber danced by Ileanna Cheladyn with Shay Kuebler’s ensemble work, Ghost Scripts, Pg. 1.

In Echo Chamber, Cheladyn stands at a microphone in running shoes, bike shorts, and a translucent top. She wants to start with a joke, but she isn’t sure which one.

After telling the audience we take her breath away, she begins to hold her breath between strained movements, writhing and falling to the floor before pulling herself up again. All the while she breathes into the microphone recording it for later playback. This sequence went on far too long and lost my attention, which waned for the remainder of the piece. Cheladyn sustains an intimate vulnerability throughout the work, yet it seemed to be lacking an arc or urgency.

Kuebler’s Ghost Scripts, Pg. 1 is visually interesting, but it feels unfinished. There are captivating group sequences and a solo that comes closer to getting at what seems to be the emotional heart of the work; other than that, it was beautiful to watch without much of a cohesive narrative to be gleaned. A hooded figure in black serves as an “invisible” partner in one duet, which is an interesting device but actually seemed to distract from the other partner’s movements — which didn’t really need the help of an invisible hand.

A vague threat or unseen force looms over the group until, in the final scene, they are suddenly jazz cabaret performers giving it their all. If this is the beginning of a work that will continue to grow and be developed, it has great potential, and this ensemble performs with impressive rigour and tension.

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