Monday, May 23, 2011

Contact Photography Exhibit 2011

Every year in the month of May, the Contact photography exhibition places photographs of a given theme in public locations throughout Toronto.  This year the theme is "Figure and Ground", which explores " the shifting tensions between humanity and nature".  Photos can be found in public and private art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, office buildings, open spaces.

Brookfield Place is displaying photographs by Alain Paiement called "Over Here, Over There"  The photos are of various rooms of a house and garage, but the perspective makes it seem as if someone climbed to the top of the house, cut off the roof and shot each room from above.  In keeping with this viewpoint, the large photos are displayed on the floor so that you need to look down on them.

Kinsman Robinson Gallery is showing Louie Palu's Fighting Season,  a series of photos depicting the war in Afghanistan including portraits of soldiers, images of troops in battle and wounded, Afghan children at play, arms and ammunition.  There were two eerie photos that stood out in my mind.  One was of a horse that had been blown up by a grenade so that only the skeletal remains were left. 

The other was of a wounded solider on a stretcher with his pant legs cut open.  The soldier is only shown from the chest down but the lighting, the positioning of his bare legs and the bunched up cloth of his pants resulted in an image reminiscent of Christ during his crucifixion

The Italian Consulate is displaying Giorgio Barrera’s Battlefields outside on its grounds, depicting the locations of three Italian wars.  I only caught a glimpse of this while riding by on the streetcar, but it made me wonder what would happen if it rained!

Tiger Princess Dance Productions at Enwave Theatre

Recently, my niece and I went to watch "Tiger Princess Dance Projects" at the Enwave Theatre in Harbourfront Centre, which consisted of solos and duets by Yvonne Ng and her frequent partner Robert Glumbek.  She is only 4 ft 10 inches while he towers over her at well over 6 feet, making for very interesting opportunities for choreography.  I first became aware of this duo when they did a preview performance at a Four Seasons Centre lunch concert.

The first dance was named A Tale Begun, created by Robert shortly after he became a father.  It starts with Yvonne strapped to Robert's back like a mischievous baby full of wonder.  She thrashes around with arms and legs outstretched, straining left and right in an attempt to see the world.  Despite her efforts to get free, repeatedly she curls up in a fetal position, back into the safety of his arms.

The next portion of the dance was added recently to interpret the ongoing relationship between Robert and his daughter as she starts to grow up.  Released from the harness, Yvonne is now a young child ready to explore her surroundings.  Imitating a bird trying to spread her wings and fly away, she is restrained by Robert who attempts to teach her to walk, putting one foot in front of the other.  Their power struggle goes on for a while but eventually ends with a loving embrace between father and child.

The next piece, called Relatively Related is a solo number for Robert, but begins with Yvonne alone sitting on the side of the stage in the dark, talking into a microphone.  There's a little comic bit where she calls out for him and wonders whether he's late or she's mistaken the time of this performance.  Her embarrassed little giggle is charming.

Finally Robert appears and progresses to perform various dance moves, jumping and twirling in response to her verbal commands.  It was reminiscent of the director in the musical A Chorus Line giving instructions to the dancers.  At one point she steps into the light and they interact with a long corded rope which he coils and uncoils around his body, and with which they interact in a tug of war.  She is dressed as what looks to me like a Chinese Communist commander, while he barefoot and all in black.  He continues with his frenetic motions, culminating in a move where he rapidly runs backwards in a circle with his body at such a tilt that we were amazed he didn't topple over.

The next dance called Sticks was a solo for Yvonne and was too weird and artsy for my taste.  Both the music and the motions were excruciatingly monotonous and plodding.  In my mind, nothing much happened and this was not so much a dance as a performance.  Dressed in a plain coloured Asian robe or kimono, Yvonne walked very very slowly to different parts of the stage, gingerly knelt down, picked up large tree branches, balanced them on her head, removed them, then moved on to the next spot.   She reminded me of the poor dog on The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!

We waited the entire number for something climatic to happen but it never did.  At one point, I think both my niece and I dozed off (maybe we missed the climax!).  There was probably some really deep significant meaning to this number, but I didn't get it or appreciate it.

The finale called Level on my Level was another duet by Yvonne and Robert, and in my mind, it was the showstopper.  The dance involves a giant circular lavender skirt which Yvonne uses as a prop to form beautiful images and formations.  The dance opens with the skirt fully laid out like a flower with Yvonne scrunched down in the middle.

With one quick swoop, she lifts the dress up to her armpits, twirls around until she has transformed it into a slim fitting cocoon-like gown which Robert uses to drag her across the floor.  Gathering the skirt up in her arms, she flings it around to make patterns like the traditional Chinese Ribbon dancers would do with their long sleeves.

In one of the most unique moves in the dance, Robert crawls under the skirt, puts her on his shoulders and stands up so it appears like you are watching little Yvonne grow to be 10 feet tall.  They dance like this for a while before moving onto the next stage of the dance where Yvonne has removed the skirt. 

Now free of this barrier between them, Yvonne and Robert are able to truly interact and the last part of the dance involves more acrobatic moves.  She jumps, sits and even walks on him while he whips her around like a rag doll.  In an amusing twist, it appears like she is dragging him across the stage (although he is obviously assisting by pushing with his feet).  This dance was mesmerizing and you wanted it never to end. 

I don't usually like dance, but I would gladly watch these two talented dancers again.  Their work is innovative, energetic, whimsical and extremely entertaining.  An interesting interview with Yvonne and Robert with some footage of their rehearsals can be found here: