10 Gates Dancing Inc.

April 27, 2004

10 Gates Dancing Inc.
L’Agora de la danse

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

April 27–May 1, 2004

Reviewed by Linde Howe-Beck


“Reclusive Conclusions and Other Duets,” Tedd Robinson’s idiosyncratic program for himself and three dancing divas, belongs among noteworthy moments of dance history, and not only for holding an unofficial record for selling out almost a year before its opening here.

Robinson had always dreamed of dancing with three female dance icons: Mako Kawano, Louise Lecavalier, and Margie Gillis. So when they accepted his invitation, he choreographed the program of three duets as a fiftieth-birthday present to himself.

Each of the short works to live, onstage accompaniment bore the choreographer’s trademark originality, surrealism, and interest in Buddhism. An enigmatic, Dali-esque figure, the former baroque performer (who became a Zen monk for six years) appeared in various sculptural black, Japanese-inspired outfits to contemplate or dance with his partners. Unlike them, he moved very little. Spare, intense, and deeply grounded, his slow, butoh-like gestures communicated intimately with the women, whose dances were designed to exploit their individual techniques, energies, and personas.

In Kurosango, a term signifying rare black coral, Kawano, one of Japan’s most popular dancers, displayed why, among her many honors, she was voted her country’s best dancer in 2000. Her extreme physical articulation triggered floods of images. With fingers, hands, and wrists twisted and thin arms akimbo, she seemed like a tree wrecked in an ice storm or a sea creature mauled by marauding currents. A portrait of vulnerability, she collapsed like a rag doll, confounding the image by thrusting a leg and foot above her head. As if discarding her body, she shuddered into a heap and then allowed a soft foot to creep away stealthily. The effect was like watching body parts trying to escape, or ocean life seeking safe haven. The refuge was Robinson, who tenderly held Kawano’s deformed-looking hand.

Lula and the Sailor showed Louise Lecavalier in her first major role since ending her eighteen-year career with La La La Human Steps in 1999. She performed rigorous, isolated hand and leg movements like those that won her a Bessie Award in 1985 and inspired choreography for La La La.

Engulfed in a huge overcoat from which only his shaved head and bare hands emerged, Robinson mirrored the precise slashing of her limbs. Faster and faster, clearer and clearer, she signed to the erratic twitterings and bleeps of a clarinet. Bouncing, jerking, her thick blonde braid flying behind her, Lecavalier was all controlled muscle. Robinson’s quirky, fabric-muffled imitation made the gestures look bizarre.

Another Montreal cult figure, Margie Gillis, mopped her famous hip-length hair around the floor as Robinson lured her toward the source of gutteral vocals in The Insistent Echo of Reclusive Conclusions. He tried to touch her river of gold. He sat beneath its canopy like the Buddha beneath the Bodhi tree. With it draped over his skull, he looked surprisingly womanly.

From time to time, Echo suggested it might be a metaphor for a spiritual journey. Although any real story line eluded, its intent and beauty—enhanced by Jean Philippe Trèpanier’s moody lighting, which melted the space around the dancers—were pleasure enough.

For more information: www.cyberus.ca/~tengates/