The Holy Body Tattoo

February 15, 2000

The Holy Body Tattoo

Vancouver East Cultural Centre

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

February 15?19, 2000

Reviewed by Kaija Pepper

The opening tango, full of uncertainty and achingly slow, is the truest part of the Holy Body Tattoo’s hour-long  Circa, choreographed and performed by artistic directors Noam Gagnon and Dana Gingras. It’s full of passion, subtlety, and wonderful partnering. The setting, with a red velvet curtain hanging upstage and four chandeliers, is elegant, and on the soundtrack British musician Martyn Jacques gives a haunting, gravel-voiced rendition of  Send in the Clowns, complete with bandoneon. When Gingras, in short skirt, stiletto heels, and sheer black stockings, wraps her leg around Gagnon in a gush of sudden, forceful movement, there is confidence and a flash of bare thigh that hints at where the passion might lead.

is more subtle and less brutal than the company’s  Poetry and Apocalypse (1994) or  our brief eternity (1996), which have toured in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The non-stop attack of those earlier works can’t be easy to perform night after night, and Circa should provide a respite. While the movement is sometimes their signature hard, punishing workout, more often it’s a gentle, barefoot patter, with her heels and his boots removed.

Like their other work, and also like a great deal of Vancouver dance,  Circa is multidisciplinary. The film by William Morrison has two parts: beautiful, grainy, black-and-white images of people and places in Paris, intercut with surprisingly static, color images of Gagnon and Gingras in a deserted bar. The film plays between dance segments, with the dancers exiting as the curtain rises to reveal the screen. This clunky, episodic arrangement is the work’s weakest element. The commissioned music from three separate artists?Jacques, Warren Ellis, and Steven Severin?creates additinnal problems because each track, though inventive and evocative on its own, follows a different inspiration.

Circa doesn’t stay with its Argentine tango-based modern dance movement, it veers off into earnest solos or theatrical shenanigans (heavy breathing, a bit of shouting), but when this strong, dramatic duo stick with their inspiration, it’s magic. It’s a shame that when the stardust falls at the end they’re playfully marking steps side by side, in obligatory, millennial isolation. It’s as if they don’t know what’s right beside them?the perfect partner. For tango, at least!