Dance theatre explores personal boundaries

A contemporary dance piece by W&M Physical Theatre ponders whether we might be more ourselves when we’re with others.

Melissa Monteros who serves as W&M’s co-artistic director alongside Wojciech Mochniej explains that she’s been questioning the boundaries between people for years. “How do all of the pieces of ‘I’ become ‘we’?” she asks by way of explanation. This investigation led to other questions that are explored in their next performance. “What parts of ourselves do we keep hidden from others? What parts are we willing to share or expose? …And how do we feel when those parts are exposed?”

The Cube began as a 30-minute contemporary dance piece commissioned by Dancers’ Studio West and later expanded into a 55-minute show performed at the Dancing on the Edge Festival in Vancouver last summer. Part of the original commission was to develop the work with music by Canadian composers which is still featured in the full-length show. This meant however that creating The Cube was contrary to Monteros’ usual style of focusing on the choreography first and then selecting the music. “I think working with music selected music made me make a completely different work than I probably would have made without the music” she says.

For example she describes “Triple Riffing” by Timothy Brady as an exciting and rhythmically complex piece of music which influenced the choreography. “It creates a lot of tension so I thought it would be challenging to try to… meet the energy of the music with the movement.” Monteros was also attracted to the work of Scott Edward Godin which adds plenty of percussion and a wide dynamic range.

Added to the all-Canadian score is a particular attention to the visual landscape of the work. With projections to establish mood the stage (not surprisingly) is strewn with cubes which are moved and used throughout the course of the show. “The experience the audience has from the moment they enter the theatre — everything from the music as they walk in to how much of the stage is visible to them how the scene is revealed to them — all of those things are of really great importance to us” says Monteros.

W&M Physical Theatre as the name implies works in dance theatre a style of choreography that uses theatrical elements like text and props as well as pedestrian movements and natural human gestures. But Monteros doesn’t get too hung up on categories. “People often have particular and very specific expectations around what dance is and I hope that they’ll open their minds to see it as a kind of a moving theatre not something that you’re supposed to necessarily interpret in any particular way” she says.

While The Cube doesn’t tell a linear story Monteros explains that the show is equal parts poetic imagery and narrative structure. “Dance is much more a poetic form where there definitely is an arc and I do feel that there are relationships in the work that develop that are recognizable as relationships.”

She adds that The Cube can’t really be done without the full ensemble of five dancers — not always the case with choreography which perhaps goes back to the interconnectedness at the heart of the show.

“I love this idea of taking a look at the boundaries that we create between us and the possibilities of being more in sync while maintaining our individuality… this sense that we really can be ourselves and be in close proximity to others and actually be better for it” says Monteros. “I really quite like that idea that we are somehow better together and I hope that comes out in the piece in some way.”

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