Sweat Baby Sweat builds aching in­ti­macy

The Georgia Straight - - Push Fest - > JANET SMITH


By Jan Martens. A Push In­ter­na­tional Per­form­ing Arts Fes­ti­val and Dance Cen­tre pre­sen­ta­tion. At the Sco­tia­bank Dance Cen­tre on Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 18. No re­main­ing per­for­mances

The ti­tle Sweat Baby Sweat might 2

lead you to be­lieve that Bel­gian mav­er­ick Jan Martens’s new dance duet is an hour of in­tense, body-slam­ming, per­spi­ra­tion-soaked cou­pling. You would be en­tirely wrong. In­stead, the work is achingly in­ti­mate, a slow, se­ri­ous ex­plo­ration of hu­man be­ings con­nect­ing, weav­ing their limbs into in­creas­ingly im­pos­si­ble, pret­zel-like con­tor­tions. Their eyes re­main locked on each other; in one ex­tended se­quence of move­ment, their lips do too.

This is not to say the dancers don’t sweat; they def­i­nitely do as they achieve poses that of­ten defy physics. The open­ing finds Kimmy Ligtvoet with her feet planted on Steven Michel’s thighs, her arms clamped around his neck, jut­ting her hind end away from him—hang­ing on even as her cen­tre of grav­ity threat­ens to pull her off him. In an­other ex­tended mo­ment, set to the slowly puls­ing elec­tronic score, they roll like some in­tri­cately wo­ven hu­man ball across the en­tire length of the stage. What amazes through­out is the very smooth­ness of their move­ment, de­spite its phys­i­cal de­mands. The metaphor here is that love is a dance of care­ful bal­anc­ing and coun­ter­bal­anc­ing.

The show’s hyp­notic power—al­beit one you must be ready to sub­mit your­self to—is in its quiet com­muning. Dat­ing back to La La La Hu­man Steps, con­tem­po­rary dance has been mak­ing a name for it­self with fren­zied feats of ex­treme vir­tu­os­ity. As it says in the pro­gram notes here, Martens is not in­ter­ested in this kind of spec­ta­cle at all, just “the beauty of the in­com­plete hu­man be­ing”.

He’s fo­cus­ing here on the way we at­tach our­selves to one an­other (in this case, quite lit­er­ally, as if Krazy Glue were in­volved).

And al­though it doesn’t play out quite per­fectly—at one point Michel madly tries to push the cling­ing Ligtvoet off him, only to have her strad­dle him ever more tightly—martens re­veals a real af­fec­tion for love. It’s es­sen­tial to life. Some­times we can’t, and shouldn’t, let go.

Like the loop­ing, seem­ingly end­less Cat Power song that serves as a coda here, the piece wan­ders, whim­si­cally and cu­ri­ously with no con­se­quence in par­tic­u­lar. But the dancers are so mag­netic, so com­mit­ted in their com­mit­ment, that you can’t help but be moved; some­one I know was sit­ting by a per­son who sobbed through­out.

We’ll all bring our own bag­gage to this re­la­tion­ship. Sweat Baby Sweat holds a raw power, the sub­tle kind that comes from skin mov­ing against skin, a hand gen­tly sweep­ing a woman’s long hair back, and eyes gaz­ing into each other—but some­how with­out any or­na­men­ta­tion of ro­mance.


Van­cou­ver street-scene pho­tog­ra­pher Fred Her­zog takes the spot­light, and throws art­ful shad­ows, in a new ex­hibit at Whistler’s Au­dain Art Mu­seum through May 22. The show, called Shad­ow­lands, chooses 18 of his pho­tos from over his ca­reer, all of them play­ing with light and dark. At the same time, they’re a chance to trans­port your­self back in time, to a colour­ful, di­verse city be­fore high­rises and sky­rock­et­ing real-es­tate prices. (See from 1958 Chinatown here, cour­tesy of the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery col­lec­tion and part of the show.)

Black Man Pen­der

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