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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Dance review: Telemetry is conceptually strong but lacks emotional depth

Shay Kuebler's full length work is a feat of athletic prowess that feels as intellectual as it is haunted

Shay Kuebler and Radical System Art return to the 2017 Chutzpah! Festival with the full length version of Telemetry.  By turns martial, spiritual, and robotic, Telemetry sings with a rhythm that demands to be heard.

A single tap dancer floats through a dusky ether, stomping a series of flickering lights into incandescence. More than just manipulating the bulbs, the bodies of jerking dancers are whipped about the stage like cascading puppets caught in a torrent of tap.  Less a narrative arc, and more of a conceptual exploration, Shay Kuebler’s full length work is a feat of athletic prowess that feels as intellectual as it is haunted.

Dancers Maxine Chadburn, Hayden Fong, Tyler Layton Olson, Nicholas Lydiate, Lexi Vajda, and Danny Nielsen twist and torque themselves across the stage like clockwork phantoms, simultaneously present and unreal. The strength of speed manipulation allows the dancers to suspend time in moments, worlds of the artists’ making.

Halfway through, contact is made between the dancers transitioning the explosive performance into a personal, introspective world. Hypnotic rhythm and bass create an ambient aural blanket on which spikes of movement and flashes of light burst with equal violence. It is a show that highlights in lightning flashes the beauty of angles, struggle, and commitment. In the final silence, the ragged breathing of the performers fills the space left behind by the tap dancer’s feet, continuing the rhythm into a purely organic sphere.

Telemetry is based on the concept of telemetering through the human body; the idea that the human body can translate intangible and unseen processes into coherent communication. Telemetry isolates the body with the stimuli of rhythm and light to define and inform movement. In that regard, the show is a clear success. The connection between rhythm and form is clear, communication is made, and the audience is enthralled.

However, on a deeper theatrical level the emotional arc of the show offers little clear resolution to the question posed in the power of one to control many. Manipulation, while a fascinating subject, is a cerebral experience lacking in emotional depth. Coupled with incredible physical feats, Telemetry becomes chocolate for the brain. If you’re looking for an academic dance show, this is your ticket.

Telemetry directed and choreographed by Shay Kuebler. Part of the 2017 Chutzpah! Festival. On stage at the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre (950 W 41st Ave, Vancouver) until February 21st. Visit for tickets and information.

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