- Me So You So Me
- David Raymond, Tiffany Tregarthen
- Out Innerspace Dance Theatre
Every now and then, I come across choreography that expresses something I thought was unique to my own sense of humour. This happens occasionally with literature, too; I'll stumble across a line of Samuel Beckett or Anne Carson and feel as though the idea is so privately funny to me that it may as well have been stolen from my head.
This happened at least a dozen times last Wednesday when I watched Vancouver's Out Innerspace Dance's Me So You So Me at the World Stage Festival in Toronto (the production is now touring Eastern Canada). This gorgeous and moving pas de deux, created and performed by David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen, is both a self-contained love story and a story of life itself. During its 55 minutes, we travel great distances with these lovers, from self-discovery (Tregarthen first appears to us like one of Beckett's disembodied characters – she's a lamp with no body) to death and beyond. The choreography is intricate and irreverent, layering complex floor-work and athletic partnering with off-centre grands jetés en tournant, mimetic gestures and flashes of bouffon.
When I revisit the piece in my mind (which I actually can't stop doing), I see a moment that's perfectly hilarious to me. Lifted into the air by her sometimes-lover, Tregarthen becomes conscious of an irresistible beat in the music and, out of nowhere, starts to wind her arms, dancehall-style, above her head. It's by no means the most dramatic or impressive moment in the piece (there are plenty of those, I'll get there) but it epitomizes the way that delicate, self-conscious details in the choreography both interrupt and enhance this narrative of intimacy, desire and rejection.
Raymond and Tregarthen alternately build and destroy a relationship the way we do in real life. Unlike real life, the choreography gives us glimpses of interior thought, thwarted impulse and the subconscious. In one moment, Raymond jogs into a beam of projected light and words, becoming stuck in space and slowed in time, rendering him inaccessible to his frustrated lover. In another, a romantic massage goes from aggressive to surreal when Tregarthen loses a thread on Raymond's body, pulls out a (seemingly) never-ending string of his guts, then lovingly pats him on the head.
The dancers' relationship to experimental percussionist Asa Chang's inventive score is central to the logic of the piece. Sometimes the dancers seem to be controlled by the music, as is the case when a series of Japanese words are co-ordinated with flickering lights, forcing them into a pattern of humorously anti-climactic poses. Other times, they react to it, pounding the floor in unison to a swelling melodic phrase. The score is so vast and varied that it has a kind of geographic amplitude. In one beautiful sequence, the dancers are tossed, as though shipwrecked, flat on their stomachs, before the light shifts, the waves crash, and Tregarthen begins to weep into (imaginary) sand.
James Proudfoot's lighting design plays a huge part in constructing this peculiar but cohesive world. Vivid colours soak the stage, an amber beam becomes a street lamp in the darkness and squares of white light suggest the confines of a cage. Both Raymond and Tregarthen are captivating – but it's Tregarthen, as the rejected lover, who wins my heart. Her aggressive clownishness can transform, instantaneously, into a quiet, desperate sadness. A subtle hand gesture is as expressive as a high, sweeping ronde de jambe en l'air. Staring into the blue light of a simulated TV screen, her laugh is bare and infectious – we're immediately laughing along.
What really stands out about Me So You So Me is that despite its radical range of movement and narrative technique, nothing ever feels superfluous. Every wild diversion is productively part of the whole. It's a treat to see this talented and boldly imaginative company touring Canada. Lucky for us, they're planning another national tour in 2016 to debut a new ensemble piece.
Me So You So Me plays at Halifax's Live Art Dance, April 23-25, then tours to Labrador, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island from April 29 to May 9 (outinnerspace.ca).