Fragile Forms: Reflections on Dance & Architecture

Machinenoisy Dance Society’s new work, “Fragile Forms,” co-presented with the Push Festival is a unique and compelling work, inviting the participant to reflect on dance, bodies, architecture, purposes of shared space, and use of public spaces. I would like to share some reflections on this work with you.

Fragile Forms unfolds in different locations in the Anvil Centre in New Westminster, BC. While watching this work with a friend who has a background in architecture, both of us were immediately struck by the invitation to consider the space we were inhabiting in new ways. Notions of mindfulness of routine – the daily ways we use public and private spaces – came to mind right away, particularly our own observed tendencies to take many spaces for granted or to be distracted by with the phone or with own thoughts away from the environment. Whatever we might label as ‘routine,’ can become a means to an end, and attract labels of ‘mundane,’ ‘boring,’ and so on, ultimately bringing disconnection from present-moment experience of space. I noticed myself paying attention to the kind of environments I would usually feel distant from and it was interesting to notice how a space that seems very ordinary can be a great vehicle to a peaceful moment with oneself and with those sharing the space – without the distraction of something terribly exciting or novel.

The way Fragile Forms made use of the space they were working with was quite extraordinary, and really made this work a very unique and memorable one. Some of the spaces used were quite grand, almost evoking images of ancient sacred space and rituals, others were saturated with a sense of bringing the play of movement to the ordinary, while yet others were very intimate encounters with the part of the centre that a visitor would not normally get to experience. This created a very personal experience with the work, the dancers, and the space. In some of the segments, the use of reflections in multiple reflective surfaces placed dancers on the ceiling, on the wall, and on the road in front of the centre. Sometimes catching a brief glimpse of a dancer who seemed like an apparition far away, one could turn around and actually see that they are right there behind you, that the somewhat ghostly double vision effect of the reflection disappeared as soon as you saw them directly, and the feeling towards them changed immediately to one of greater closeness.

The choreography and dancers’ interactions with the space were utterly captivating. One thing that often draws me to contemporary dance works is the ability of the dancers and the choreographer(s) to communicate and evoke a full range of human emotions and experiences. Fragile Forms most definitely excelled at that, whether that was the intention or happenstance. Each new space used was set up in a very unique way, and there was no way to expect one setting or one feeling. There was a part that, without saying too much about it, was absolutely haunting as well as visually incredible. It reminded me of Shen Wei Arts’ “Folding,” particularly with the work’s ability to present very powerful moments to engage with. See the excerpt from “Folding” here:

I do mean haunting in a good way, as it evoked some very real feelings of human fear of unpredictability and existential dread. While uncomfortable, such feelings are part of the human experience and can serve to remind us of our humanity and shared fears, hopes, and dreams. Overall, the creativity was very fresh throughout the entire experience.

The photos below do not do the Fragile Forms work justice (and are only from two sections of the performance, which takes place in many other spaces). Some of the most surprising, powerful, and captivating moments happen in the work when no photography is allowed – which helps to fully be present with the work, and makes it something you must experience for yourself.

 

Overall, I would like to thank everyone involved in bringing this work to life. It offered more than words can describe and it was an excellent reminder of why dance and art are vital, of how they help us connect – with ourselves, each other, and spaces we exist in.

“Fragile Forms” is choreographed by Delia Brett and Daelik. It is still on and will be showing on February 5, 6, 7, 2019, with showings at 6:00pm and 8:30pm. You can learn more about the work and Machinenoisy Dance Society and Fragile Forms here: http://machinenoisy.com.

Written by Alina Sotskova.

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