BC Movement Arts: Hieroglyphics and gadgetry

Amber Barton in Meditation. (Debra Lynn photo)Amber Barton in Meditation. (Debra Lynn photo)
Alexis Fletcher in until. (Debra Lynn photo)Alexis Fletcher in until. (Debra Lynn photo)
From left to right, Chelsea Edwardson, Amber Barton, Alexis Fletcher. (Debra Lynn photo)From left to right, Chelsea Edwardson, Amber Barton, Alexis Fletcher. (Debra Lynn photo)
Alexis Fletcher in until. (Debra Lynn photo)Alexis Fletcher in until. (Debra Lynn photo)

WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN

On July 23, I went and watched the BC Movement Arts final show of the 2021-2022 season, featuring dancers Alexis Fletcher and Amber Barton, with special musical guest, Chelsea Edwardson, at the Gatehouse Theatre in Port McNeill.

The solo dances by Fletcher and Barton were inward looking—solitary explorations of the self—though each had a significantly different slant.

In Alexis Fletcher’s dance, until, she started out by putting on a see-through jacket that struck me as a kind of “cocoon.” It was a protective coating, perhaps like a security blanket, as she explored an expansive range of body movements…and I mean expansive! There were so many different poses, postures and movements that I didn’t think it was possible for them to occupy a single dance! It was a kind of physical brainstorming, a trying to discover all that the body can do, therefore, by extrapolation, discovering what the psyche can do. She is testing her limits, much like a child does as they grow into an adult. The dancer is on a path to individuation and growth by exploring every movement possible. They were like collection of body hieroglyphs, an alphabet of expressive movement for developing a language of the self.

Amber Barton, dressed a bit like a “grease monkey,” in a simple white T-shirt and sweats, performed intriguing movements, especially if one is a mechanical engineer! She focuses on joints and what they can do. She emulates the gears and gadgets in a factory: gyroscopes, flywheels, hinges, rivets, bearings, axels, levers, screwdrivers, rotating shafts, pendulums, and the like. She is a “cog in the machine.”

At the start of the dance, Barton moves on the spot like the agitator in a washing machine or the beater of a mix-master, then expanding out into space in an increasingly complex dance. Later in the piece, she seems to become conscious of something “out there,” outside “the machine.” She tries to break loose, making movements that are more independent, more fluid, more “human,” but still looking restricted by invisible strings. At the end, she puts her hand out flat in the air, like she is putting it on a glass window, seeming to realize she is trapped. She walks away, hunched like a crone, her joints now stiff and inflexible. She is no longer useful for moving in this machine: her movement (life) story thus ended.

I think this dance questions that we all may functioning in a massive mechanism that restricts our movements, maybe even thoughts. We may try to break free and reach incredible heights, but we are still consumed by it. Nevertheless, those moments of “almost breaking free,” of trying to expand our horizons, is what adds richness to our lives.

For both dancers, their energy output I found exhausting to think about! On top of their professionally developed skill, they put one thousand per cent of themselves into their performances.

As the lights came up, the audience seemed delightedly surprised by what they had just watched, as if they had come across an unexpected treasure while going for a walk. On my way out, I talked to one man who expressed intense appreciation for the live performance and said he was eager to see more.

I also enjoyed Chelsea Edwardson’s “abstract” music. Like the dances, her music is a kind of exploration. The sound is suggestive of alternative dimensions, dreamscapes, time travel, “essence.” It was an adventure for the ears, and a nice sorbet from our busy weighty modern lives full of pop songs and commercial jingles. It is like the sound of pure unadulterated silence, with the volume turned up!


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