2018 Fluid Festival

Through November 3 at various venues

Review by Stephen Hunt

The second scene of Reverence, a new piece by Yukichi Hattori, which the former Alberta Ballet dancer and choreographer performed last week at the Fluid Festival, reveals the dancer and choreographer upstage in the beautiful DJD Dance Theatre, inhibited by a structure that’s meant to represent a kind of physical confinement.

Reverence was the opening piece to a sensational triple bill, which also featured Lesley Telford’s Your Tongue, My Ear and Wen Wei’s Dialogue, in a performance that drew nearly a full-house to the DJD Dance Theatre, to close the 2018 festival’s opening week.

It’s a little counter-intuitive: Hattori is an explosive, dynamic performer, and yet here, he’s created a bit of a box that he must physically contend with, one that limits his ability to move — but as we soon learn, doesn’t eliminate it.


(Yukichi Hattori in Reverence)

The thing is, that’s exactly the point that Reverence makes. Inspired by the Mark Sakamoto novel Forgiveness, about the psychological fallout of the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War, Reverence goes on a psychological journey of sorts, in three short scenes, that I think of as Innocence, Confinement, and finally, Possibility.

It starts out with a stage full of children, dancing, in a manner that feels classical and formal — and ordered.

The next scene features Hattori alone, confined – isolated during wartime? —  left to his thoughts and here the movement turns abstract and idiosyncratic — a character pushing back against oppression imposed on him by the state.

All of it is performed in a kind of soundless aridity, with nothing but a backdrop of industrial noise to illuminate our ears — pretty bleak stuff.

Finally, in the third scene, performed with partner Galien Johnston, there’s a sense of release from that confinement.

Johnston’s presence onstage is reassuring, and intimate and provides a balance — physically, psychologically and emotionally — that’s utterly absent in the second scene.

As if to underscore that reset to peacetime emotional equilibrium, the stage is strewn with pink and carnation petals, and there’s music playing again, a piano sonata that almost sounds a little Gershwinesque — urbane, hopeful, romantic and luscious.


(Justin Calvadores and Stefanie Cyr in My Tongue, Your Ear)

My Tongue, Your Ear

Lesley Telford’s My Tongue, Your Ear is inspired by the legend of the Tower of Babel, which I never knew, so I Googled it!

It’s an origin story from the Book of Genesis that explains why people speak different languages.

You can see the physical manifestation of that in My Tongue, Your Ear, which Stefanie Cyr performs with Justin Calvadores.

There’s a certain sudden violence to their physical language, which erupts in little coiled outbursts of physicality that are quick, composed and feel potent.

All of it is performed in close proximity to each other, almost as if they were stuck in a relationship with one another where there’s almost no space to breathe.

There’s fiddle music, the odd line of dream-like text, and an uneasy partnership that  feels a little like a pushback against all those classical ballet duets — My Tongue, Your Ear is a bit of an un-duet. (It also made me think of mixed martial arts a little, so Conor McGregor that!)


Choreographed by Wen Wei, and performed by a trio of guys — Dario Dinuzzi, Ralph Escamillan and Arash Khapour — Dialogue  explores individuality, cultural difference and sexual orientation in a piece that’s playful, masculine fun to watch — and listen to.

From the first opening notes to Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender, to a soundscape of industrial construction, you can feel the city rumbling underneath the lives of all three performers onstage, and the way they negotiate with city life by creating a physical language that allows each of them to survive.

Khapour is a kind of burly, masculine presence onstage, even going so far as to perform one piece while eating a sandwich while he launches another by running a pick through his thick, crinkly hair in a gesture that’s delivered with a great gust of charm.

He’s juxtaposed by Escamillan, who blends various street dance styles with a bit of ballroom and circus flair, much of it performed in high heels, to create s scene stealing, magnetic performance.

Dialogue confronts our notions of tolerance and multi-culturalism in a way that’s a joy to watch.

(Feature image: Arash Khapour and Ralph Escamillan in Dialogue, by Wen Wei Dance)

More Fluid Festival:

Nicole Mion and Mark Hopkins talk Week 2 at Fluid Festival in The Almanacs Podcast

Sandra Sawatzky reviews Justin Manyfingers’ High Trails at Fluid Fest

Gloria Elekwa reviews Week One

Jenna Rodgers reviews Kickstart

The Halfstep talks to Pam Tzeng about That ch*nk in y/our armour