FINAL SAVAGE LAND choreographed by Allison Cummings (Sore for Punching You). At Oz Studios (134 Ossington). Runs to February 2. $20. 416-504-6429 ext 24. soreforpunchingyou.com. See listings. Rating: NNN
Allison Cummings's Final Savage Land is a lush dance and installation piece that illustrates the comforts and horrors of codependency. Juxtaposing humour and emotional intensity with a delicate sense of the macabre, it proves a dark vehicle for dancers Linnea Swan and Luke Garwood.
The work unfurls slowly as the pair traverse a long narrow gallery space, holding hands, scattering then following a trail of snowflakes. Green vines grow delicately from the cracks in the plaster walls, birds twitter. Lyon Smith's moody sound design supports our premonition that this Hansel and Gretel are headed for disaster.
The fairy tale vibe of the first half morphs into a more claustrophobic atmosphere of increasingly desperate physical struggle; tension replaces cooperation. The performers start using their weight to pull and push, dragging each other to the ground, lifting and carrying.
Though their performance styles differ (Garwood is placid but determined, Swan radiant), you can sense an abyss of violence lurking within each. But Cummings has directed her cast to work the precipice rather than dive completely in. Brutality is hinted at but rarely expressed, because the proceedings are wrapped in layers of metaphor and control. Even when Swan finally fully lets rip her character's rage, heartbreak and hatred, we see it behind glass, as she moves outside, directing her agony at us through the gallery's front window.
That distance creates some frustration, but it may also be part of the point. In the real world of codependency, some cling to civility when their world goes up in flames. As for survival, liberation, resolution? It's complicated. Cummings and her team have identified these ambiguities and framed them with great, if aloof, beauty.