Review: Montréal Danse makes memories

A gorgeous piece of storytelling, movement and music explores the fragility of history.

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Sarah Chase, the choreographer of Montréal Danse's On the Ice of Labrador, considers herself as much a storyteller as she is a dancer. For this lovely piece, on now at James Dunn Theatre, she mixes up stories from the seven dancers' own family histories, with that of a woman undergoing treatment for a brain tumour.

While the stories may be concrete—cousins marrying, horrific train accidents, diabetes shots, watching Shogun with your family—there's an ambiguity in how they are told to the audience. Each of the dancers tells, or sings, a different story, but naturally you really want to make connections. It plays out like a little mystery. Are these all from the same person, or are they connected somehow? Are these fragments of memory from a woman whose brain is compromised from treatment, who we can't trust with facts? Why are these memories remembered and yet others are discarded?

Anyone who is looking for an entry point into contemporary dance, this is a perfect show—in fact, in many ways it's more like theatre. There's some really great acting too, in particular, dancer Rachel Harris, as a woman suffering from some form of aphasia, trying to articulate her feelings and recite her phone number. And moments of beauty, like Frédéric Marier spinning slowly around on a small circular platform (these platforms are used by all the dancers through the piece), playing the trombone, compass points created in light on the floor around him. A large lit translucent board used on the floor becomes a small pool, then, when stood up, almost as if the dancers are gesturing behind a cloud of a waterfall.

On the Ice of Labrador continues until Saturday.

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