Review for En On
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Demonstrating its international eclecticism as we head into the final stretch of Edgy 2010, the festival lines up Berlin-based Yumiko Yoshioka with up and coming Montréal cabaret favorite Lise Vigneault and American dance and performance artist Karen Sherman for an evening of transformative identities.

Yoshioka, working with choreographer Rena Konstantaki, maintains strong aesthetic roots in the art of Butoh, which as a form unto itself, has been traditionally a male-dominated practice in its embodied and encompassing presence of breath and androgyny. Working with a frame of a life cycle from cocoon to rebirth to desire and self, Yoshioka’s movements progress from taut to flow, complementing this arch of movement with costume and an electronic soundtrack (a soundtrack that was at times competing with its performer, leaving me unsure who was leading who). While the concept of metamorphosis is certainly not new, I was at least hoping for something different to occur, something different in thought and expression that would open up the archetype of metamorphism in a contemporary context, but I was left unsatisfied for such.

Next was Vigneault’s first extended piece, “Keep It To Yourself, Dear”, a video-heavy play on the social faux pas of awkwardness. Making a name in the local cabaret scene, Vigneault’s charm is in her offbeat comic timing, but that timing did not space for pause in the text-heavy video produced in the fashion of pedantic instructional tapes. Learning to use iMovie for this project, Vigneault perhaps gave too much credence to the video when she should have trusted herself as a performer to carry the weight of the work. Shifting in personality from smug scientist to awkward social deviant breaking out in a restrained solo, her interest in the physicality of her characters is noted and I look forward to seeing her next projects that demonstrate better her range of movement.
Finishing the evening with the strongest work, Sherman’s “Demolition Boy” is a strangely captivating exploration of artistic self worth and Tyra Banks. Hovering a very fine line between the serious hardcore of American modern dance to the deadpan absurdity of anyone tapped into the paradoxes of pop culture, Sherman puts forward notions of judgment and failure by using an actual audio recording of a grant jury deliberating the merits of her own work. The crux, however, is that she plays the audio recording as a dub over an edit of Tyra Bank’s “The Gay Truth Booth,” apparently a segment where the stereotypes of gay men are invited onto the women’s talk show to teach and inspire women to be better women, when all the while, the character of Karen in a tie and sweater vest is idolizing the fashion of her friend, Nick, who is activated by an audience member and held captive as her muse. The work as a whole hinges on Sherman’s almost hypnotizing presence on stage, which fascinatingly enough, does not waver over the course of her own judgment.

En On will be at Tangente again on March 26 at 7:30 p.m. with an artist talk to follow

Amy Fung

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