frac·talˈ(fraktəl/): a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.

© Malin Grönborg
© Malin Grönborg

Oftentimes when I see film in a dance piece, the video element feels superfluous; an afterthought tacked on in an effort to turn an otherwise dullard piece into eye candy. Seldom – unfortunately – do you see a work in which the choreography and video are intrinsically tied together and operate as two sides of the same coin.

Fractals of You , from Montreal-based company Tentacle Tribe is one of the only pieces that I've seen master this technology-dance fusion (the other that springs to mind is the work of mega-watt Australian company Chunky Move).

Tentacle Tribe is a “creative alliance” between Canadian Emmanuelle LêPhan and Swede Elon Höglund. Based in Montreal, the pair are active participants in the b-boy and b-girl street dance scene as well as occasional performers with the events arm of Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Eloize. Quebec audiences will recall their piece, When They Fall, from Festival Quartiers Danse 2012 and 2013, but the creation that followed, Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid, managed to get major attention from international programmers, touring in and well beyond Canada.

I saw Tentacle Tribe's brand new piece, Fractals of You, as part of the (very nicely programmed) Danse Danse 16/17 season in Montreal. In it, the duo deftly weave together film, a hip hop-derived sensibility and intensely kinetic contemporary partnering with a freshness and vitality that was impressive.

The filmwork was actually stop-motion painting by the painter Gene Pendon, with video by Stefan Verna and projection mapping by Nans Bortuzzo. It was not just a backdrop to the dancing, but a kind of third performer. Lê Phan and Hoglund interacted with the video projections in unexpected and poignant ways, sometimes instigating explosions of animated mandalas across the backdrop with a flick of the wrist, other times allowing the imagery to wash over their bodies. One of the best parts of Fractals of You occured when Lê Phan and Hoglund opened their trenchcoats to reveal lungs, hearts, a pancreas, glowing eerily through the dim light. It was a beautiful moment of digital humanity.

The music, a percussive soundscape by Andres Vial & Keiko Devaux with remix by Nans Bortuzzo, was a good fit, and pulled the work together cohesively.

I have to say, Fractals of You felt fresh. First, it was a technical feat, superbly executed. The fact that the movement quality slid between fluidity and glitchiness set up some edge-of-your seat dynamics. It subverted the idea of being able to neatly box a piece by style or subject; indeed, a strangely beautiful hybrid like this has the ability to sit across digital and analogue, structured and organic, male and female, nature and culture.