Margie Gillis

March 14, 2008

Margie Gillis’ “M.Body.7”

Centennial Theatre, Vancouver, BC

March 14–15, 2008

Reviewed by Kaija Pepper

Emotional release is Margie Gillis’ trademark—her dance is all flowing arms and hips and ecstatic waves of dipping, diving movement. The famed Canadian soloist, who first astonished audiences back in the ’70s, recently toured west from her Montreal home for the Vancouver International Dance Festival. She brought a mixed bill of her own choreography called “M.Body.7,” performed by a stellar line-up of seven women dancers (the 7 of the title): Canadians Gioconda Barbuto, Anik Bissonnette, Holly Bright, Laurence Lemieux, Emily Molnar, and Gillis herself, plus American Risa Steinberg.

    The high point was ICI… (Here), Gillis’ first group choreography, which featured two special guests: 72-year-old Eleanor Duckworth, a Harvard professor of education, and 10-year-old Sandrine Bissonnette Robitaille (daughter of Bissonnette and Louis Robitaille, both popular Quebec dance artists). Neither did much dancing, but what a delight to have Duckworth’s serenity and Robitaille’s sweetness on stage, adding a multigenerational scope to the work.

    Serious dancing was given to the pros, featured in solos set to a soundtrack ranging from Bach to k.d. lang. These were powerfully performed, but the choreography itself was disappointingly predictable. One exception was Lemieux’s exuberant, sometimes goofy revel, which seemed a loving spoof of both her own and Gillis’ propensity for ecstatic moments. Another surprising solo was danced by Bissonnette, who abandoned her ballerina’s finesse and almost convinced us that wildly shaking hands and feet are enough to make a dance.

    The use of the ensemble as background support was inspired. The women encouraged, teased, or copied whoever was taking their solo turn with such high spirits that it often felt as if we were all part of a fun girls-of-all-ages night out.

    In ICI…, Gillis appeared only briefly for the group finale; she was instead featured at the start of the evening in a new solo, Par un fil d’argent (By a silver thread). Here, she danced beside, under and finally in a long dark coat that hung centre stage and the familiar repetitive flow, with her long auburn braid flying, made the piece vintage Margie Gillis.

(Photo courtesy Margie Gillis Dance Foundation)