August 27, 2021
Theatres are already announcing the start of the new cultural season, summer having seemingly slipped through our fingers. The FTA, however, already kicked off the season on the terraces last May.
From my point of view, the Festival TransAmériques has always heralded the arrival of summer. A year after the cancellation of the 2020 edition, FTA audiences were once again in attendance, but not without caution. While respecting the health measures in place, the FTA wanted to highlight the unflagging work of artists, to provide visibility to a community hampered by the pandemic, but above all to remind us of the importance of being together.
It is all very well to present dance performances online and to promote solo works that respect social distancing, but the performing arts are nourished by live encounters, between the public and between artists. In this post, I am thus paying tribute to dialogue, to sharing, to our fundamentally social nature. I am celebrating artistic approaches that favour exchanges, both behind and before the stage. In this regard, three dancers and choreographers in particular from the Breathing Space initiative attracted my attention.
Retraced – 7Starr
Vladimir “7Starr” Laurore is now well known to FTA audiences thanks to his performance in Anima / Darkroom, a solo co-created with Lucy M. May and presented at FTA 2021. 7Starr is a pioneer of krump in Canada, a non-violent, fast-paced street dance that originated in Los Angeles in the 2000s. Very much involved in the community, 7Starr has had a career spanning 20 years.
His current project, Retraced, looks back on his practice as a dancer, rapper and choreographer, with the aim of passing it on to emerging krump artists
When he received support from FTA Breathing Space, 7Starr was completing a mentorship with Victor Quijada, the choreographer of the company RUBBERBAND. Having developed his own special technique over two decades, Victor Quijada has been a source of inspiration for 7Starr, who now wishes to create his own dance company and assert his signature style.
7Starr is endeavouring to train dancers with a unique aesthetic, moving away from the beaten paths of the krump scene. The style he has developed over several years, called 7*Skopez, focuses on such elements as floor work, an area seldom explored in krump. It is also characterised by its use of “Buck Talk,” i.e. the integration of the voice and a raw language specific to krump.
7Starr’s most recent music video with Buck Talk
For 7Starr, this project could not have been realized without the contribution of close collaborators who could advance his methodology and logic.
Krump lies halfway between technique and individual originality, which 7Starr tries to respect by calling on artists with varied backgrounds and styles.
His right-hand man, Tommy “Sin’cere” Nuguid, has a background in popping and is very familiar with 7*Skopez. Audiences were able to appreciate him in an FTA 2021 Salutation.
Mathilde “PhoenX” Mercier-Beloin is a graduate of the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal. A protégé of 7Starr, she is one of Canada’s most promising krump artists, incorporating into her style the flexibility of contemporary dance.
Véronique D’ababté is not a krump dancer, but 7Starr calls on her expertise in floor work and jumps.
7Starr also continues to seek the advice of his mentor Victor Quijada to affirm and validate his ideas. Driven by this spirit of sharing and co-building, he is pursuing his work through creative residencies, most notably at the Maison des arts de Laval and Tangente.
Face to Face – Naishi Wang
The Chinese dancer and choreographer Naishi Wang also uses a mode of creation rooted in collaboration. His duet Face to Face, supported by Breathing Space, was developed with the Berlin dancer Lukas Malkowski.
Beyond the “pas de deux” that emerges, this project seeks to understand what really transpires between two beings during a hypnotic tête-à-tête.
Naishi Wang has lived and worked in Toronto since entering the School of Toronto Dance Theatre in 2004. His involvement in works by Quebec choreographer Paul-André Fortier, whose Solo 70 was presented at the 2018 FTA, drew the attention of the Festival. His solo Taking Breath, presented at MAI – Montréal, arts interculturels in February 2019, reflects his interest in the body’s intimate forms of communication, which he displays once again in Face to Face.
The piece combines physical theatre and dance to investigate what is transmitted through body language when two people meet. Like two magnets, the performers of the duet embrace and repel each other, testing and revealing themselves, sometimes face to face, sometimes back to back. Each one learns to read the other’s physical performance and to translate its intentions, whether conveyed by a facial expression, a tone of voice or a look. Face to Face explores the transmission of emotions through the body, revealing its many complexities.
It is through drawing in particular that Naishi Wang attempts to understand what is revealed in movement. By alternating dance and pencil drawings, he creates living graphic scores that fuel his biform approach.
He devoted the months of December 2020 and January 2021 to this type of solo research, given that Lukas Malkowski’s trip to Canada was compromised by the pandemic. Face to Face did not take place as planned at the Citadel + Compagnie in Toronto in April 2021. It was postponed to the spring of 2022 with the firm intention of not transposing it to a digital project, since the core of the work is based on what is provoked by the physical encounter between two people.
Carrier – Benjamin Kamino
While Naishi Wang focuses on what results during a face-to-face encounter, Benjamin Kamino highlights what unites us even after the encounter.
This Montreal-based Canadian artist defines dance as a space for the emergence of a set of bodies without languages or borders. He has undertaken numerous projects of a multigenerational nature, including the duet m/Other with his own mother, and of a unifying nature, such as the sung performance real’s fiction\dissonant pleasures, in which everyone is invited to join in the melody.
His current project, Carrier, its title derived from the concept of “carriance” developed by psychoanalyst and painter Bracha L. Ettinger, interfuses the action of carrying and being carried in dance.
In collaboration with Lee Su-Feh, Josh Hite, SF Ho and Brynn McNabe, Benjamin Kamino stages a duet of bodies that listen to and care for each other in their falls, in their fragility.
The intimate encounter of performers Alexa Mardon and Zahra Shahab takes place in a DIY installation. An imposing fan, fixed horizontally on large boxes on the floor, holds a large sheet of paper in suspension. In addition to the sound of the blades, a whispered voice from a microphone echoes throughout the space.
Carrier is an ode to resistance and to the life force born of the effort to support one’s fellow beings. For the choreographer, the piece reveals the beauty of what we leave behind after our disappearance, of what we have helped to build despite our frailties.
Benjamin Kamino worked on this project for over a year. He was to have presented a first version in Vancouver in November 2020 at EDAM ̶ Experimental Dance and Music Theatre, but the performances were cancelled due to the troubling health situation.
A glance or a smile is enough to establish contact. Sometimes it is in a simple greeting that the most unsuspected discoveries are made, to the point of creating an unbreakable bond between two sensibilities.
In the collaborative work of 7Starr, Naishi Wang and Benjamin Kamino, relational art guides each inspiration. Bodies, voices and ideas respond to each other, complement each other, clash or intertwine in a spirit of cohesion. Here, Aristotle’s “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” takes on its full meaning.
It is through the encounter, the relationship with the other, that the impulse for movement is born. The work can then take flight.