Albatross puts two completely disparate worlds side-by-side, somehow managing to combine the captivatingly beautiful with the monotonous.
The show opens with a stunning image: dancer and collaborator Hilary Maxwell lies naked in the middle of forest, projected on her and the floor using a plastic white sheet acting as a projection screen.
It is hypnotizing and beautiful to watch the trees dance around Maxwell as she lies still in the middle of this serene scene. She doesn’t begin to move until the forest is burned away, leaving her in a sterile white space, naked, alone, and (we now realize) blindfolded.
There is something somewhat disconcerting about watching a woman who is naked and blindfolded on stage in front of you. This odd, hyper-medicalized introduction to the piece is brief, but crammed full of heavy-laden symbolism: Maxwell injects blood onto her eyes and pulls the plastic sheet covering the floor through her legs.
This stark introduction disappears, and we are thrown into a completely different world. Here everything is softer: the lighting is mild, the dancers (Maxwell is joined by Josh Martin) are clothed simply in black, and the soundscape makes ample use of silence and softly repetitive composition.
When Maxwell and Martin dance with each other, they manipulate one another with a mixture of loving care and controlled aggression, mutually submitting to and controlling one another in turn. It is beautiful to watch. Beautiful, and a bit dull – the choreography makes just as much use of stillness and repetition as the composition, but to less effect.
Used sparingly, the stillness highlights the space between movement and draws our attention back to the simple beauty of a human body’s presence. It highlights just how engaging a performer can be, without moving at all (and these dancers were certainly engaging). Used to such excess, however, it simply becomes tedious.
Creator and director German Jauregui states in his program notes that there is “no meaning to search for or find” in his work – he simply creates an experience. Perhaps due to this lack of vision, the experience of Albatross is one of an extended contact improvisation experiment that goes nowhere.
Albatross created & directed by German Jauregui in collaboration with Company 605. Continuing at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 E Cordova St, Vancouver) until December 10. Visit https://firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.