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Forever fond of Festival of New Dance

Linnea Swan of Festival of New Dance. – Photo by Vanessa Tignanelli
Linnea Swan of Festival of New Dance. – Photo by Vanessa Tignanelli - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Neighbourhood Dance Works’ Festival of New Dance 2019 is ongoing in the capital city, offering a multitude of performances, workshops, pop-ups and post-show discussions at various locations in downtown St. John’s.

Running Oct. 2-12, my 2019 FND experience began on Oct. 9 at the LSPU Hall, with the Mainstage Group Show, featuring a slew of homegrown talent.

Mateo Galindo Torres’ “Cornered/Breathing” was first on the docket, performed by Robyn Noftall. On a dimly lit stage, Noftall emitted pleasured and/or painful moans and sighs under a poetic voiceover. Frantically building a wall out of small cubes, repeating a mantra of “I stand stronger, I breathe deeper, I love harder,” Noftall eventually destroyed her own creation before springing into action on the dance floor, making the most of the stage.

Another Robyn, Robyn Breen, followed, with “#HeyBabyLove.” Inviting the audience to sit on mats on the floor, Breen’s performance, inspired by a longtime love of 1990s dance music, was a somewhat slow burn. Moving slowly, like a creepy contortionist, Breen’s movements soon morphed into a fast-paced hip-hop-esque dance. I couldn’t help but wonder, is this what a professional dancer would look like at a rave?

Corner Brook’s Hilary Knee was the third performer, presenting “Opera With Staircase,” a solo created for Knee by Sharon B. Moore. In the highly comedic piece, Knee rattled off an impressively lengthy and, at times, manic monologue while dancing. She touched on beauty standards, performance anxiety, stress, critics — the highs and lows of working in the arts.

Another contract gets signed, and it all begins again.

The final piece of the night was one of my favourite FND presentations in my years of attending. Linnea Swan is a triple threat in “Yes,” as a creator, performer and sound/video designer.

The show began with an outtake reel of Swan’s frustrations with being a modern dancer who often doesn’t even like going to modern dance shows.

In “Yes,” Swan’s main focus is breaking down Yvonne Rainer’s 1965 “No Manifesto.”

An upbeat dance is interrupted — “No to spectacle.” She emulates bird sounds — “No to transformations.” Pretending to pee in a bucket — “No to trash imagery.” Swan makes her frustrations with her chosen art form known as she attempts to define exactly what contemporary dance is while simultaneously insisting there is no set definition. A blend of comedy, camp, theatre and general silliness, Swan made us think deeply while laughing heartily, and her standing ovation was well deserved.

On Thursday, the LSPU Hall stage was amplified and seemingly electric, as Tedd Robinson and Charles Quevillon performed “TRUST: A Requiem for Wood and Stone,” originally created for an underground bunker and later adapted for stage due to a lack of underground bunkers.

The pair have worked together since 2010, creating six full-length shows and over 20 works. This longtime creative partnership is evident in the work, a complex mixture of nightmare fuel, utter fascination and some disbelief. 

Creating a live soundscape, Robinson and Quevillon employed shofar horn, rocks, sand, a bowling ball, slate tiles, a metronome, beaded curtains, a gong and vocal projections, chanting or hissing or choking or gasping for air.

I’d recommend seeing it if you enjoy a truly dazzling spectacle that leaves your jaw hanging … but Robinson spoke of retiring “TRUST” at the post-show discussion, but added, “Never say never.”

For anyone yet to take in an FND event, “TRUST” me — “never say never” to this festival, especially with "Magnetikae: La Otra Orilla" on Saturday night. Every show is wholly unique, and every year I depart genuinely in awe of the Festival of New Dance’s consistently captivating content.
 
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