Solitudes Solo is intended to be an exploration of being alone, but feels more like an exploration of the athletic might of the dancers.
According to the marketing of the show, Solitudes Solo explores the nature of solitude, a state that choreographer Daniel Léveillé feels reveals the depths of our being. The show features five dancers who file in and out one at a time, performing a series of solos backed by either silence or the music of Bach. There is very little else to the production: the costumes are simply different coloured underwear, and the lighting is, with a few exceptions, static.
The movements of each piece feel more like a repetition of a series of poses than dance. In each piece, and across the entire performance, the movements are all very similar with only slight variations in prominent phrases. Many times it felt more like a child showing off the different things he or she can do (“look at me stand on my toes for as long as I can!”, “Look at me jump really high and then land in a squat over and over!”) than anything else. While the movements were incredible to watch in terms of the skill and strength of the dancers, the lack of connection and context made it feel more like series of tricks than anything else.
Not that there wasn’t any interest in watching the dancers perform. Feats of strength aside, in the intimate Firehall Arts Centre, watching the nearly-naked dancers’ bodies move was both fascinating and stunning. Their finely-tuned muscles and bones moving under their skin as sweat formed a gleaming layer over them was a dance of its own. Indeed, the skill of the dancers cannot be understated.
The use of silence and music was also engaging. In the silence, the dancers’ breath was front and centre. Watching and listening as they use their breath as a tool, driving moments of movement and stillness, was like a meditation. The introduction of music, while seemingly random, provided an interesting juxtaposition that leant a sense of meaning to otherwise disjointed movement.
It’s possible that the repetitive choreography and stark, at times seemingly random, design elements in Solitudes Solo are intended to highlight tiny differences between the performances, and that the isolated, cut-off nature of the movements is meant to be a further exploration of solitude. Unfortunately, the effect is what one might predict of an unadorned, repetitive performance: you can awe at the physicality of the dancers aside, it’s just not very interesting.
Solitudes Solo continues at the Firehall Arts Centre until October 31. Visit https://firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.