New Animal Review

09.02.12

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Georgia Straight

It's a Jungle in 605 Collective's New Animal

The Cultch, February 7-11, 2012

by Janet Smith

 

The lemon stands at Donald’s Market must have been empty this week. By the end of the 605 Collective’s New Animal, uncountable smashed carcasses of the citrus fruit littered the Cultch floor, along with mangy strips of vintage fur and even a few accidentally spilled drops of blood. The aftermath of the production looked a bit like a couple of moulting grizzlies had just finished a food fight.

What had actually transpired was an equally wild animal show. Choreographer Dana Gingras had encouraged the troupe members to unleash their inner beasts, and to their credit, her young charges committed fully to the task. An intense, vulpine David Raymond opened the show by loping around the stage. From there, the other four dancers—Amber Funk Barton, Lisa Gelley, Shay Kuebler, and Josh Martin—joined him, sidling, sniffing at each other, and pawing around the floor, battling for space on the stage’s central yellow square.

The choreography can best be described as “urban jungle”—primeval movement with a hip contemporary edge—and New Animal is at its best when all the athletic bodies are flying around, crisscrossing the stage as they do in the supercharged opening quarter. As usual, Gingras has nailed the music down perfectly, from the driving, echoey guitars of Shining Path to the laser bleeps and general insanity of Japan’s Boredoms.

True to its name, the piece is all about human beings’ barely repressed animal side. Sequences about males and females sniffing each other out and circling one another or guys battling for bits of territory clearly speak to the primitive drive behind our mating and social rituals.

 A highlight was the mesmerizing, surreal postscript, which found Raymond swathed in a giant, falling-apart old fur coat. At first, he was just legs under his “beast”. Then gently, almost gracefully, he was stripped of his coat by the other dancers, who lifted and consoled him.

The movement is still recognizable as a 605 work—with the hip-hop-influenced dives and spins that we’ve seen in past ventures like Audible. And Gingras’s trademarks are there too—bodies crash repeatedly to the floor, thrown by unseen forces. But the theme is driven by an animal hunger that pushes into strange new territory for all artists involved. Both the 605 and Gingras are known for their humour, but late in New Animal, when Martin and Raymond snarl in a spotlight like rabid panthers (on this night, blood also trickled from Raymond’s nose after an accidental crash), it’s too creepy to be funny.

And then there were those lemons. Who knows where they fit into the theme, precisely. They ended up being ripped apart by humans who more resembled drought-starved beasts. The dancers gnashed away, mouth to mouth, the way two little black dogs had vied for a chew-bone in one of videos projected onto a screen that covered the back of the stage. They also brought to mind the radical performance art of pioneers like the onion-gobbling Marina Abramović.

Whatever the notion, here’s what all those juice-oozing, completely destroyed lemons flying around best symbolized: the willingness of this troupe to push itself to extremes.