WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
FORTRESS + 4 SOLOS was an evening of dance presented by two dancers, Livona Ellis and Rebeccas Margolick, both having performed internationally and accumulated an extensive list of accolades and achievements in the dance world.
Their staging on June 10 at the Gate House Theatre was very minimalist. There were no props, along with some simple side lighting that changed mainly from “shadowy” to bright like a searchlight (with a couple of exceptions). Costumes were austere, generally neutrally-coloured as they might be in a police state, or in an institution. With such simplicity in stage and costume, it drew attention to the dancers’ every movement, to their every twitch of a muscle! Such focus on the dancers could only be as effective as it was due to their high degree of professionalism. Not only did they know their steps and how to execute them, they “were” the dance.
There was a predominant stylistic trend of dramatic expressive movements juxtaposed with some kind of “restriction.” Some movements were free and flowing, with just as many that seemed “hemmed in” by some unseen force, which gave it “Orwellian” overtones.
The first dance, Unmoved, performed by Ellis, was described in the program as about how we can be moved to overcome limitations when we see friend surpassing them. The dancer danced to “talking,” even sometimes just silence, which made it “surreal,” perhaps suggesting that it is through “the dream” that we can overcome barriers in our thoughts.
In Margolick’s piece, Bunker, the program description described as about “resilience, strength, and relentless pressure on the female body over generations.” The supporting music sounded “computerlike.” Margolicks movements were sometimes mechanical, along with movements that seemed to be trying to break free, possibly from a controlling element of “ones and zeros.” The dancer is struggling to follow her own beat in a limiting, over-simplified medium.
In Woman Walking (away), Ellis seems to be moving in some kind of gelantinous ooze that restricts her movements to super slow motion, which is contrasted with other movements that were almost “epileptic.” With her back to us for most of the dance, she is a “mystery woman.” She is a woman trying to walk forward but she is really walking backward (to the audience) in a somewhat ambiguous “journey of one.”
Dance can be a form of poetry. Body position and movement are like expressive words with, often, many levels of meaning.
In the fourth dance, entitled Trace Elements, performed by Margolick, she starts off dancing to silence. The restrictive element enters the scene in the form of a voice of someone spouting Nazi propaganda. The “freedom element” or “self-actualization element” was the dancer singing a Jewish song. Although this performance was very much historical, it is certainly relevant to today with events like the invasion of Ukraine or the overtaking of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
In the last piece, Fortress, the two dancers performed together. It started out with the dancers in a symbiotic embrace, much like that of a mother with her very young child. It was followed series of conflicts and reconciliations, that could be symbolic of a child’s or an individual’s path to growth and self-actualization. Eventually, the movements became larger and less intimate, until the dancers are “marching like soldiers in circles to the beat of firing squad drums.” The external societal forces seem to take over, making us into “cogs in the societal machine.”
The evening was a somewhat dystopian commentary about our existence, but one that was masterfully done.
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