Quan­tum Tan­gle car­ries winds From the North

> BY ALEXAN­DER VARTY

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

Al­most 40 per­cent of Canada can be de­scribed as Arc­tic or sub­arc­tic, yet those vast tracts of land are home to less than one per­cent of our pop­u­la­tion.

Most of us will never see the mid­night sun, pad­dle the vast lakes of the North, or see snow geese on their nests. But this week we will be able to ex­pe­ri­ence some of the sights and sounds of that ter­rain, thanks to From the North, a tour­ing pro­gram head­lined by Quan­tum Tan­gle.

It’s a di­verse bill, en­com­pass­ing both dance and mu­sic in forms both mod­ern and tra­di­tional. But if any­thing unites the tour’s artists, it’s their love of what sur­rounds them ev­ery day.

“Our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment plays such a huge role in our lives,” ex­plains Quan­tum Tan­gle singer Tif­fany Aya­lik, reached with her mu­si­cal part­ner Greyson Gritt at an Ot­tawa tour stop. “It’s ex­treme warmth, ex­treme cold, ex­treme beauty. The weather and the land­scape are just so up­front and in­escapable that I think a lot of us are very in­spired by the land that we come from.”

The Yel­lowknife duo’s sonic en­vi­ron­ment in­cludes com­put­er­ized beats, in ad­di­tion to Gritt’s acous­tic gui­tar and Aya­lik’s elec­tron­i­cally looped throat sing­ing. But even when the two ven­ture into the mul­ti­me­dia realm, the land still plays a star­ring role.

“One piece that we’re per­form­ing is called ‘Iglu­vut’,” Aya­lik says. “It’s sort of a love song to the igloo and all of the amaz­ing things that it rep­re­sents, and how this fas­ci­nat­ing, in­ge­nious piece of ar­chi­tec­ture has been pro­tect­ing and hous­ing Inuit for thou­sands of years. And there’s a beau­ti­ful film that we project be­hind us while we sing that was cre­ated by my sis­ter and my mom. It shows ev­ery­one in my fam­ily all join­ing in and cre­at­ing this igloo out on the lake.…so that’s a re­ally beau­ti­ful mo­ment for us, be­cause we’re sing­ing about fam­ily.”

Life in the Arc­tic is not al­ways idyl­lic; as has been well re­ported, a sui­cide epi­demic is sweep­ing through north­ern youth. A so­lu­tion, so far, has been hard to come by—but both Aya­lik and Gritt be­lieve that it’s pos­si­ble to find strength by look­ing back while mov­ing for­ward. That’s what in­spired “Amau­ta­lik”: the text/sound piece is based on a tra­di­tional leg­end about a for­est gi­ant­ess who im­pris­oned way­ward chil­dren in an antler cage on her back. It’s also a pow­er­ful metaphor for the pris­ons of poverty, ad­dic­tion, and de­spair.

“‘Amau­ta­lik’ is a way to re­mind young ones that there are things up in the woods that can be scary,” Gritt says. “A lot of these things have taken on even more metaphor­i­cal mean­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter res­i­den­tial schools and the gen­er­a­tional trauma that has run through all of our fam­i­lies.”

But isn’t that just like the Arc­tic? The win­ter dark­ness is real, but it’s balanced by the per­pet­ual light of fam­ily and lore.

A Cirque du Soleil pro­duc­tion. At Con­cord Pa­cific Place on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 19. Con­tin­ues un­til De­cem­ber 31

Ku­rios—cab­i­net of Cu­riosi­ties dif­fer­en­ti­ates it­self from the Cirque du Soleil masses not just by its strong, steam­punk-styled look, but by the way it puts new twists on the ar­ray of ac­ro­bat­ics. In the case of the show’s best se­quence, it lit­er­ally turns things up­side down—cre­at­ing a trick of the eye that, like so many other mo­ments here, might please sur­re­al­ist painter René Magritte him­self.

On one level, the scene is a chairstack­ing bal­anc­ing act like those you’ve seen in other shows. Here, it takes place at a rau­cous din­ner party, with one mus­ta­chioed mem­ber of the group climb­ing and hand­stand­ing his way to the top. But wait: at the very peak of the tent is an iden­ti­cal party of peo­ple hang­ing up­side down en­joy­ing their meal—and the ac­ro­bat’s equally dap­per dop­pel­gänger de­scend­ing with his hands to­ward the floor.

Just as awe-in­duc­ing—for its artistry as much as its phys­i­cal feats—is a gor­geously strange con­joined-twin straps act, where the high-fly­ing brothers swing from one arm and stay linked with the other. Then there’s the con­tor­tion­ist act that finds par­rot­fishspot­ted crea­tures form­ing ever more elab­o­rate sculp­tures on the palm of a me­chan­i­cal hand straight out of Metropo­lis; you lose track of where heads and limbs start and end as they melt into an amor­phous mass.

Yes, Ku­rios is a pa­rade of cir­cus acts, but it cre­ates one of the most strange, fully re­al­ized dream worlds that Cirque’s ever con­jured here. (The Old World–in­fused Cor­teo is the only one that comes close.) Ku­rios harks back to the age of elec­tric­ity—an­tique in­can­des­cent light bulbs add an at­mo­spheric warm-sepia glow—but also plays with turn-of-the-last-cen­tury cir­cuses and the fu­tur­ism that fu­elled tal­ents like film­maker Fritz Lang, writer H.G. Wells, and in­ven­tors like the Wright brothers. (Prim­i­tive fly­ing ma­chines abound.) The cos­tumes are among Cirque’s best, in­clud­ing the le­gion of ro­bots that look cob­bled to­gether from a Jules Verne night­mare, an ac­cor­dion man who wheezes as he walks, and a top-hat­ted fel­low whose bathy­sphere belly opens to re­veal a live oc­cu­pant. Gramo­phones be­come hats; bouncy metal springs be­come skirts; and rep­til­ian frills flut­ter as men fly high from a mas­sive tram­po­line.

The en­tire look of the show feels beau­ti­fully low-tech—the antithesis of some of the glitzier, Ve­gas-style spec­ta­cles you might as­so­ci­ate with the Que­bec mega­troupe. There’s no more mag­i­cal ex­am­ple than the hand the­atre, pro­jected on a hot-air bal­loon, that uses a sim­ple fish­bowl of wa­ter, tin­sel, and the world’s tini­est sneak­ers to breath­tak­ing ef­fect.

It’s one of many un­ex­pected, ex­u­ber­antly odd­ball mo­ments from a com­pany that thank­fully still re­mem­bers how to keep it weird.

> JANET SMITH

Greyson Gritt and Tif­fany Aya­lik draw from Arc­tic na­ture in their sound­scapes.

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