Parts + Labour_Danse is a new dance company, emerging from the Montreal dance scene in 2011 through the collaboration of Emily Gualteri and David Albert-Toth. With the double bill presented this weekend, comprised of two highly reflective works, Parts + Labour_Danse are establishing a clear identity based on profound affectivity and exploratory movement.

Parts+Labour_Dance (Dancers: Jody Hegel & Milan Panet-Gigon) © David Vilder
Parts+Labour_Dance (Dancers: Jody Hegel & Milan Panet-Gigon)
© David Vilder

The sold-out Studio Hydro-Québec at the Monument National offers an intimate environment for spectators. For La Chute, the audience is directed to fill the gallery, looking down on the performance floor where David is sitting off to one side, staring into darkness, setting a voyeuristic frame for his solo.

Dressed in a suit and watched over by his teddy bear, David leaves his seat, walking toward a white beam of light. He looks curious or confused. Smooth, round movements flow through his long limbs, expanding the space around him with ease. He has an unexpected grace and control over gravity, not making a sound as he moves fluidly and sharply around the floor.

As his breathing grows heavier, it is as though the weight of the audiences’ eyes pouring down on him make him more self-conscious. It is all part of his very calculated performance; involving us emotionally in his depiction of stripping a man of his self worth. Where at first he looked calm and controlled, the shapes David takes now betray an uncertainty as he disconnects further from his sense of self.

The choreography has influences from break-dancing, theatre and street magic. David dances the role of a man who, having nothing left, struggles to hold on to his sanity. The slowly darkening mood is consistent throughout the performance. David is wonderful when he breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience and either accusing, questioning or begging them to have faith in him. His voice is strong and steady, just like the choreography, and his theatricality is well placed without ever overwhelming the dancing. When the lights fade to black, the audience stands straighter and whoops their delight in what would have been a standing ovation had we not already been on our feet.

Re-entering the Studio twenty minutes later, the scene is very different. The audience take their seats as four dancers observe them from a small room overlooking the dance floor. Massive, rusted support beams intersect the room, hoisted onto the gallery. Various items occupy the floor: a bench, a bird cage, a suitcase, a messenger bag, two logs.

In Mixed Company gets off to a weak start. The dancers are not in sync, their timing cues are too obvious and they dance with a lot of caution. We get the impression that they feel squeezed and restricted in the space, yet they hardly use the space available to them. In one of the duets, a missed connection makes for a stumble that is badly handled as the surprised dancers give away their mistake. It looks like it might be a long 50 minutes.

Suddenly, the mood changes completely. Now dressed in a wedding gown and lead atop a ladder by her two male partners, one of the female dancers performs an elaborate lip-sync to Florence + The Machine’s Cosmic Love. Resembling a new-age Ganesha, it’s hard to suppress a fit of giggles at these three dancers as the fourth sits on the floor staring awkwardly at them, then giving in and lip-syncing along too. The whole thing is absurd, though we’re sure Emily and David could give us a great explanation for it, but it lightens the atmosphere and gives the dancers the confidence boost they needed.

From that point on, the duets flow easier and the timing is more exact. Each dancer has a solo that showcases their unique beauty. One particularly moving solo is danced by Milan, wearing nothing but his briefs, who cries out “Ne me quittes pas!” ("Don't leave me!" in English) as he fights against Lael, who tries in vain to restrain him. It is also the most 'danced' moment of the night. Each of the four performers draw us in by the end of it with their charm, this likely being the desired outcome for a choreography about making connections in the modern world.

All in all, In Mixed Company has the potential to be a very interesting and moving piece, but at this point in time it was lacking. With more confident dancers and after a lot more hours in rehearsal, I would love to see this on stage again. As for La Chute, hats off to David for a compelling solo, which drew the audience into his torment and impressed with inventive choreography.