“Flicker”: a journey of initiation and test of language

Photo: Derek Dix
One of the main concerns of the company Dancers of Damelahamid is the transmission and preservation of a heritage danced.

Company aboriginal family, it is with Dancers of Damelahamid at the time of an emergency of transmission of the dance and the traditional artistic practices of culture gitksan First Nation of British Columbia — and an objective, holistic, which underpins the creation stage. For his first coming to Montreal, the troupe led by choreographer and dancer Margaret Grenier offers a narrative piece telling the initiatory journey of a young man (played by Nigel Attic) wandering through natural landscapes populated by spirits. In the destiny of this individual and his journey fraught with pitfalls reads the metaphor of a collective people experienced seeking to persist in reconnecting with the spiritual forces to guide him.


In a theatrical device in the Italian style and a design concept integrating video projections on a triptych in the background of the scene, we discovered the dances, taking their source in aboriginal traditions various. Table in table, you are going to recognize especially the dances of the pow wow, with these jumps and games legs crossed and open handed, in rhythm, with percussion on a regular basis. We distinguish also dances mimetic intrinsically related to the nature and embellished graphics animal of the north-west coast. On stage, Margaret Grenier, and its female interpreters in their red tunics embody in turn the figure of the woodpecker. The brisk movements of the head, not that unfold gently on the ground, arms like wings, hands that symbolize the bird’s beaks and races in the space drawing curved paths form a sequence dance that recurs insistently as a leitmotif throughout the piece.


Language barrier and offset codes


Even if the dance can be seen as a universal language, no subtitles, no access, unfortunately, not a pan of the poetry of the piece. A lack all the more crucial when the room wants to be narrative. Thus, the songs of performers like lullabies supporting several times the dance and the fragments of text, saved that resonate between the tables remain opaque for those who do not know the language gitksan and cree. For this reason, a certain distance non-voluntary moves in the face of the character’s adventure, which rises up to his metamorphosis.


The codes of representations of the traditional dances of aboriginal peoples and their changes which we are not familiar, with our white eyes, it will be difficult to identify what there is of contemporary in Flicker, except for the scenography in which Margaret Grenier poses the choreography. One of the main concerns of the company is the transmission and the preservation of a heritage danced, the contemporary, in contrast, involves a deconstruction of traditional codes and, especially, a certain rejection of linearity to the narrative.


We understand the urgency that lives Dancers of Damelahamid to persist its dance and artistic practices, to continue to make them live and vibrate in the current world so that they do not disappear. But there is a contradiction, or at least a shift, which gives rise to question in this intention of the choreographer to link the traditional to the contemporary, while the piece embraces narrativity. As the anchor in the traditions does not take away anything in quality to the dances of the masks and costumes to the invoice a small scale. The fact of turning to the past to draw matter does not prevent the possibility to innovate, so that the tradition is refreshing. So she continues and continues to evolve and spread. In this Flicker is still a good example.


Choreography by Margaret Grenier (Dancers of Damelahamid) with Margaret Grenier, Nigel Grenier, Kristy January, Rebecca Baker, Jeanette Kotowich ; a co-presentation of Dance Dance and Montreal arts interculturels (MAI), from 14 to 18 November at the Cinquième Salle of Place des Arts.

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