BLOODLETTING AND OTHER PLEASANT THINGS choreographed by Tony Chong. Dancemakers (55 Mill). To November 2. Rating: NNNN
One of the best thing that Dancemakers' artistic director Michael Trent has done is hire Jacob Zimmer as the company's resident dramaturge.
It's a lesson that more dance companies, modern and classical, could benefit from. A theatrically-trained set of eyes can often help determine how movement works on a stage, not just in a rehearsal room.
Zimmer's dramatic savvy could be one of the reasons why Tony Chong's Bloodletting And Other Pleasant Things is so successful. Another reason, of course, is Chong. The Ottawa-based artist and current artistic director of Le Groupe Dance Lab demonstrates a rich imagination, playful sensibility and eclectic aesthetic canvas.
Bloodletting opens with soothing Vivaldi and five Dancemakers performers walking onto the playing area in colourful Gap briefs, innocently taunting and provoking each other in groups of two. Anger lurks beneath their smiles and exchanges, but it's kept in check. Once two of the male dancers begin choking, however, it's as if their ids are unleashed. Vivaldi gives way to Bach, which soon disintegrates into a staticky haze, all intriguingly mashed together by soundscape designer Kevin Young.
From then on, the show begins in earnest to press our emotional buttons. A game of musical chairs builds resentments among the dancers. A monologue from Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio ends in a chilling mob scene. A large white board partly obscured by plastic sheets gets scrawled with graffiti. Moods shift in seconds.
What's best in the show is that movement seems a natural extension of what's come before. When Kate Hilliard and Kate Holden taunt and then abuse Robert Abubo, it's a physical expression of emotional undercurrents.
There are a few fumblings; the text portions of the show don't always succeed. And a free-association game between Hilliard and Steeve Paquet comes across clever but not really integral to the show.
But the production's best moments - an all-out shout fest by the performers, a poignant monologue by Benjamin Kamino, the jostling for power among the five distinct dancers - are sharp and pointed. This might not be the most pleasant show, as its title ironically suggests, but it's definitely one of the year's most memorable.