Fluid Movement Arts Festival celebrates peak physical performance

“The physical body and the spirit of it can be a powerful metaphor” says Nicole Mion curator of the Fluid Movement Arts Festival.

“Whether it’s in football or a ballerina or a tiger taking down prey those kinds of actions are really visceral and vital and speak to our condition” she adds. “Sitting in front of our computers and TVs it’s easy to lose touch with that… and I feel that dance can remind us of those kinds of connections.”

From certain angles the Fluid festival looks like a contemporary dance festival but organizers are careful to describe it within the broader term “outstanding physical performance.” Mion explains the distinction: “Talking about it as physical performance is suggesting that the physical body can be used in many different and artistic ways and we could program that vast array within the festival.”

No matter what you call it though the festival strives to share some of the very best local national and international performances.

Take Compagnie Marie Chouinard presenting two works at this year’s festival Gympédies and Henri Michaux: Mouvements . “It’s really important for the Fluid festival to bring outstanding international performance to Calgary and although Marie Chouinard is from Montreal I consider her in the international category because of her status as a creator around the world” says Mion.

Chouinard’s piece Henri Michaux: Mouvements has dancers enacting the shapes of ink drawings by artist Henri Michaux. “That is a very simple premise that in anyone else’s hands would probably get very tiring in about 10 minutes” says Mion “but in Marie Chouinard’s hands it is outstanding.”

Other performances include Mayday’s Junkyard/Paradise a theatrical piece with political wit; Vienna’s Liquid Loft presenting Running Sushi in which dancers turn into Manga characters; The Understory a work by Johanna Bundon and Bee Pallomina that juxtaposes fire and frozen prairie; and Mion’s own piece Quiver where floating plastic bags are part of the dance.

For a grab bag of several different styles though you might want to try one of the two cabarets. These after-hours events feature a range of performers trying out some of their work in a smaller freer setting. The Physical Therapy Cabaret remains largely dance-focused but this year’s Urban Culture cabaret stretches the boundaries and also includes spoken word and visual art.

And for something even more casual there’s containR: a bunch of shipping containers-turned-art spaces situated near the Sunnyside LRT station. This iteration of containR (Mion’s been working with these unconventional settings since 2009) is just warming up and is destined to be on the site until 2015. As a longer-term project containR is open to all sorts of creators not just artists: chefs growers scientists designers and others.

“I’ve always called containR connecting communities through art but now in the new location it’s really a little bit bigger than that it’s connecting communities through creative thinking” says Mion.

During this year’s festival drop by containR for live music free films and family-friendly dance programming.

Whichever level you choose to enter this festival — a casual outdoor outing a late night in a bar or rapt in a darkened theatre — if what you see is good it’ll stay with you. “Good art like good food is universal” says Mion. “You may not have a great palate in French cooking but when you have a really good stew you know it.

“When art is good you connect on multiple levels some of which you understand right away and some of which you work through a week or a year later.”