Review by Sarah Higgins
Vancouver’s annual contemporary dance festival Dancing on the Edge presents Fortier Danse-Création’s Misfit Blues. Choreographed by Paul-André Fortier, this piece feels like an exploration of how relationships work when the partners are older. Fortier Danse-Création describes this show as “love, clowning and other silly antics”, and that blend of ridiculous and profound is revealed in the arc and flow of energy between dancers Fortier and Robin Poitras.
Then there are Edward Poitras’ set pieces and accessories—beautiful, but confusing. Like that coyote onstage, watching from behind a suitcase full of its own fur. And the table that holds two untouched briefcases and the words “pro pelle cutem” (which, once Googled, turns out to be the motto of the Hudson’s Bay Company). Each set piece engaged my interest, but never answered how it was part of the story.
Fortier and Poitras’ movements are the greatest source of story in this show and although they don’t necessarily form a coherent whole, each of them is masterfully executed. For some time, the movements are slow, almost static, and act like visual art to literally show the characters. The incredible patience required to move as slowly as these two do is art in itself. Poitras’ animalistic movements at the start deftly work to define the world of this dance—as does the dancers’ collaboration. The moment of release when she starts to fall forward and he catches her with a palm against her collarbone, or when she balances off his head, or when they maintain contract solely through their twined necks beautifully illustrate the relationship between them. Other moments, like when the dancers mime removing pieces of each other’s bodies and faces, placing them into a plastic bag—those moments create very strong images, but the message is obscure. What is Fortier telling us here? Or, what is he saying about relationships by having his characters masturbate each other?
The sound of Misfit Blues is engaging. There is music, but also mechanical sounds, the actual whirring of a fan (onstage), the inclusion of recorded and live vocal sounds. The dancers speak in gibberish, fake words which communicate their emotion but occasionally border on distracting. Again, the sounds effectively build an atmosphere and seem to be working to tell a story, but that story is not clear enough to pay off.
And therein lies the problem. Misfit Blues has beautiful movements, danced evocatively by beautiful movers, and all the parts of it are clearly intentioned—the sound, the voices, the set and accessories. But it is that intention that is lost on the audience. Fortier may know the story and message of his dance but we do not, and that uncertainty detracts from fully experiencing the piece.
Maybe, in the end, we don’t need to know why the coyote was there (although I, for one, am curious)—but allowing us into the world of these misfits would certainly increase the payoff, and connection, for an attentive audience.
Dancing on the Edge runs to July 11. For more information, visit www.dancingontheedge.org.
Sarah Higgins is into her second year of her Creative Writing Masters of Fine Arts at UBC. She’s foremost a playwright, and has had work produced at both edges of the country—from Little Mountain Lion Productions in Vancouver to a recent show in the Halifax Fringe festival. This is her first foray into theatre reviews, and she is excited to work with the talented writers at PRISM international.