Rapley Dance Projects creates the space it confronts
July 9, Al Green Theatre
BY MILES FORRESTER
Whereas I only just made it in time to see The Occasion, I showed up at the Al Green Theatre for Confronting Space, obscenely early. Standing in line, there was a little moment of panic when they couldn't find my name in the directory. That was because it was, it turns out, the line for Phantasmagoria. Confronting Spaces wouldn't start for another two hours. Dejected that I didn't have a ticket for that show or really anything I could do to kill time, I wandered the Annex, listlessly weaving around the bookstores and wishing for the appetite to eat a second dinner.
When I found myself next to the Postscript Lounge, a lovely shanty town of Fringe artists and volunteers smiling under the low moon in the Tranzac parking spot, I killed all shyness in me and ventured in to buy a beer and take every survey they had. I sauntered back to The Al Green with bird song in every alley.
With seven dancers, an elevated stage, and fantastic lighting by Theodore Belc, Rapley Dance Projects' Confronting Space feels like a big show, especially for contemporary dance, which I've usually encountered in little rooms around the city. Considering the title and short missive I read before selecting it for review, it's really a surprise that there's so much space. I was anticipating something quite cramped, but this is on an expansive stage, and the dancers use every inch of air and surface there is. So what is it? It turns out that the space is something the dancers create themselves, in order to confront it.
Choreographers Lilly Giroux, Emily Rapley, and Paige Sayles have created many beautiful tableaus, full of tension and tenderness in turn. One captivating moment of them holding hands extended in a diagonal slash across the stage, undulating as they strain to maintain their balance, realising that they're activating a cliff edge and a cliff face in the mind's eye; it's spectacular stuff. Conversely, they also form piles by slowly building layer upon layer of draped limbs and curled legs till they make an intimate hill, with another figure stands on top to tower over the stage's lip.
It's a treat to see multiple contemporary dance pieces in a weekend, even if it leads to essayistic thinking. Femmillenial and Confronting Space share a milieu (including Kylie Thompson, who created the former and dances in the latter) and lexicon of certain gestures, but the shows themselves are distinct in ways that serve both of them. What interests me, though, is how differently each show treats persona. As opposed to Femmillenial's archetypes, Confronting Space is entirely abstract. The dancers wear earth tones under warm light, almost as extensions of the wooden stage. Any figure could emerge from its landscape to become an agent, do something heartbreakingly relatable, and then return to the throng. It pops the world open when Kendra Epik starts knocking at a door that isn't there, and the three figures shudder together in time; simple resonant gestures like this happen to strangers all the time; it's quaint when it happens and wonderful to see it here.