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Lesley Telford's Spooky Action is at Vancouver's Firehall Arts Centre.David Cooper/handout

  • Spooky Action
  • Choreography by Lesley Telford
  • Text by Barbara Adler
  • Music by James Meger
  • Lighting by Alan Brodie
  • Performers: Stéphanie Cyr, Eden Solomon, Brandon Alley, Lucas Wilson-Bilbro, Anya Saugstad

Quantum entanglement refers to two particles that share the same properties and, no matter how great the distance between them, a change to one instantaneously affects the other. The mere act of observing one impacts its partner. Dubbed “spooky action at a distance” by Albert Einstein, it’s mind-boggling stuff.

Lesley Telford’s Spooky Action, which opened at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre on Wednesday, was inspired by this complicated scientific theory, one that is challenging to fully process even for physicists. Yet, with her team of artistic collaborators, Telford makes the considerable leap from conceptual to theatrical with elegance and wit.

Telford uses science as a jumping-off point only, tackling entanglement at a human level. Her finely wrought choreography for five dancers has them skittering and skating around the stage (they wear socks, which helps the flow) in various configurations, hypersensitive to each other and the space around them. Their articulated bodies, moving with freedom and force, often seemed more like particles of colour and motion than flesh-and-blood human beings.

Brandon Alley, until recently a member of Ballet BC, has one solo where he circles around his own body with flailing arms and legs, ending up spinning in place, low to the floor, a force of nature. The most seasoned of the dancers, he brings a welcome hint of drama and emotional warmth to some of his movement.

The five performers' bodies, moving with freedom and force, often seem more like particles of colour and motion than flesh-and-blood human beings.David Cooper/handout

Stéphanie Cyr’s precisely articulated feet and lusciously arched torso reminded me of Telford’s own past appearances onstage (her performing career spans Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Compania Nacional de Danza and Nederlands Dans Theater).

Collaboration, a tenet of Telford’s Vancouver-based Inverso Productions, is an apt approach here, adding layers of visual and aural entanglement. Lighting designer Alan Brodie favours the heightened effects of deep shadow and blazing lights to obscure or reveal the dancers. Composer James Meger’s variously lush or minimalist score floats in and out, his palette of hums, plucked chords and vibrations contributing to, but never dominating, the creative dynamics.

Voice-overs of spoken text were harder to integrate; text always is. Words and movement communicate differently, and when each is intensely styled and loaded, it can be hard to focus on both at the same time. Interdisciplinary artist and performer Barbara Adler used language wryly and colourfully, veering from existential statements such as “The world was happening to me” to intimate domestic observations: “Butter melts in a hot pan. I’m hungry. Noted.” I had to let the text go in order to process the dance more freely.

With Spooky Action, Telford hits her stride as a choreographer. The idea of entanglement hovers mysteriously in the air, creating a fresh paradigm in which to view the dance.

Spooky Action continues at the Firehall Arts Centre until Oct. 19.

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