Dancing on the Edge Festival's Edge 7 program is made up of two works-in-progress that, in their full iterations, should be back at the Firehall soon. UNTITLEDdiSTANCE is a collaboration between dance artists Emmalena Fredriksson and Arash Khakpour. Based on their common, but also very different, immigrant experiences, the work opens with the artists addressing the audience in Swedish and Farsi, respectively, before segueing into the mutual instruction and execution of a floor sequence that provides them--and us--with an entree into a shared language of movement. That language is largely contact-based and in between giving and taking each other's weight and limbs in the next section, they each narrate their experiences of being othered--because of the way they look, or how they speak--in their adopted home of Vancouver. Not that the work is all about warm and fuzzy support. Indeed, the rest of the piece plays out as a series of increasingly high stakes games in which, for example, one performer, seated in front of a computer, will ask the other an impossible to answer question ("Do you feel more eastern or western?" "Would you kill a cat for a million dollars?") that s/he must respond to during an improvised solo, the movement choices of which are then interpreted and projected for us by the seated interlocutor through Google translate. In this way, and throughout the piece more generally, Fredriksson and Khakpour cannily combine language and movement to show that no matter how we position ourselves, we must always negotiate that position in relation to others--and also that, as in this case, part of that negotiation is developing a shared sense of trust.
An excerpt from Contes Cruels, by Les Productions Figlio's Serge Bennathan, was the second piece on the program. A full-length version of the work will premiere at the Firehall next May and seems to build on Bennathan's earlier Just Words. As in that work, Contes Cruels combines poetic text by the choreographer with original music by Bertrand Chénier to work through a near-death experience. However, here Bennathan has expanded his roster of dancers, with Josh Martin and Molly McDermott joining Hilary Maxwell and Karissa Barry in a quartet that sometimes moves in regimented response to and ethereally against the choreographer's onstage commands. Bennathan's repeated prompts of "Blackout" and "Lights up" late in the piece serve as an especially apt metaphor not just for a physical resurrection, but also for artistic reinvention. In this respect, Martin, who takes over some of the text early in the piece, is clearly meant to be Bennathan's dance double, or avatar, and the women his trio of muses, with their frequent blind but powerhouse leaps into space, or their held poses and offstage looks into the distance, incarnating for us what it means to embrace the unknown.