Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cloud 9/7e Ciel -- An ecstatic glimpse in rehearsal

The instant I entered the studio I felt very shy. Collected in one room are five dancers and the work of two choreographers who are the best of the best. Some of the hardest working artists with the ability to plumb many depths.

On Thursday, June 20th I was very lucky to be invited in to rehearsal runs of Cloud 9/7e Ciel’s works by Tedd Robinson and Susie Burpee. When I arrived the dancers – Sylvie Bouchard, Karen Kaeja, Michael Sean Marye, Claudia Moore and Ron Stewart – were rehearsing Tedd Robinson’s work, which at that moment was untitled.

(all photos by Omer Yukseker)

Let me summarize my admiration: 
  • in Claudia her bravado and fearlessness
  • in Sylvie her precise quirkiness and fluid stops
  • in Michael Sean his serenity and immersion
  • in Karen her sensuality and abandon
  • in Ron his stoic audacity and soft-sharp duality
  • in Tedd ideas that are far-flung and absolutely essential at once.

Within seconds of beginning to rehearse an intricate and wild section of Tedd’s work they all dropped in deeply – breathtaking. They are running this section for timing and spacing and just plain remembering what comes next but they automatically fall into really inhabiting the work at the cellular and psychological, not purely mechanical, levels.

I am struck by the cheekbones and noses of this cast. It might be exhaustion that causes such relaxation that the edges of their faces rise to the surface  -- but I actually believe it is confidence, an inherent self-confidence to live inside the work in whatever state of rehearsal it is in, to be there, wherever there is….and to enjoy it.

There are ecstatic moments for dancers and watchers alike when the line is blurred between confusion created by Tedd’s world and confusion within the real people figuring it out. There are smiles and laughs and gaffs that make me twitch…was that a mistake, was that a planned response? I don’t really care. It is delightful.

In watching this piece, the wonders of Tedd’s quirky, quick and precise world and the wonders of this impressive cast actuating it, I see ripening performers --a more luxurious variation on that word ‘mature’ that can call to mind slacks and powder foundation, botox  and stiff upper lips: things that don't apply here. These are performers not afraid to look themselves in the eye through the mirror as they rehearse, performers who are instinctually there for each other without having danced this work together before. I see, and am elated by, my potential future as a dancer. I see how much further there is to go. I want to go there too.

PhotoYet while watching the run of the full work, which is thoughtful and raccous, at moments I feel I am watching a ship full of passengers without their sealegs. I do not have my usual desire to dance it instead of watch it. I am so fascinated by Tedd’s world and its little earthquakes that the desirous part of my brain is muted. 

Strangely but perhaps not coincidentally, I experienced this shut down of the wanting-to-dance-the-work-instead-of-watch-it impulse one other time in recent years. When I first saw Susie Burpee’s trio for Sylvie Bouchard, Karen Kaeja and Claudia Moore at Older and Reckless in 2011.

Susie’s trio is the other half of Cloud 9/7e Ciel’s program which opens Thursday June 27th at the Tank House Theatre in the Young Centre. And once Tedd’s tripping, spilling, scenting world comes to a close, I get to watch a run of the expanded, deepened version of Susie’s work.

Since I didn’t get to say it before, my admiration for Susie is, among other things, the breadth of her imagination and the way her choreography possesses simultaneous play and exceedingly-well-rehearsedness.

The music for this work is deceptive and expansive, it folds in on itself and echoes at once. It is a frequently used cello partita by Bach, but Bach at his best leaves choreographers and musicians alike much room for invention and freshness.

From the start, the responsiveness between the three women, whether they can see each other or not, seems to curve and bend time and space. Linearity is not possible. Not physically nor narratively. There are more folds of space between Sylvie, Claudia and Karen than we can see with the naked eye.

As in Tedd’s piece, there is falling, dizziness, but with an overriding individuality sometimes carved like a woodblock for printmaking – intricate and unique and solid.
Three women in a work can easily be stereotyped into a feminine support structure, the trinity of maiden, woman and crone – but you can’t go there with this work. None fits these three labels – they are too beautiful, too luscious, too fragile, too strong, and ageless.

I see three small, lithe women who can take up hordes of space easily. Voraciously and speedily dancing the material they are given. What they do as dancers is mirrored by what they are doing as producers: bravely concocting a program that is a little insane and a little heartbreaking and oh-so-watchable.

(all photos here by the incomparable Omer Yukseker)

Cloud 9/7e Ciel Presents An Evening of Exceptional Dance Featuring Two World Premieres by Award-Winning Choreographers Susie Burpee and Tedd Robinson

Performed by Seasoned Canadian Dance Artists Sylvie Bouchard, Karen Kaeja, Claudia Moore and with guest artists Michael Sean Marye and Ron Stewart

June 27 - 29, 2013 at 8pm
Preview: June 26 at 8pm | Matinee: June 29 at 2pm
Young Centre for the Performing Arts
Distillery Historic District, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto

For tickets call 416-866-8666 or visit
Regular Admission - $25
Student, Senior CADA - $18 | Preview - $15
Ticket Inquiries: or 416-504-6429 x 24

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Abecedarian -- the poem by Sarah Slean

After performing "The Abecedarian" in Stratford this weekend, some audience members asked me about seeing the whole poem/libretto written by the lovely and talented singer-songwriter (and artist and  poet and arranger) Sarah Slean. Here 'tis in all it's beauty. Enjoy. But note that the poem is the property of Sarah Slean and may not be reproduced without her express permission.

 ABECEDARIAN - by Sarah Slean 

A - amelia earheart yearning to fly.
awe flowers open in her dreaming eye.
like the long and constant exhale of the sky
while the monk at his table, is writing.

B - what you reach for is already there, in your hand,
you may think we are birds condemned to the land,
but somewhere eternal, beyond feeble sight.
the gravity creature is always in flight.

C - consecutive clock has an itch it must scratch,
it will tick and will tock and will cower and crack,
but "circle", the word, contains all that C knows,
the hard kick of time and the soft way it flows.

D - parting the years like a volatile sea...
"Now" opens time like a dictionary
from young to old and from A to Z
you are always right there in the middle

E - ecstatic, the embers fly up to the trees,
exhaling their lives with elegant ease
the campfire instructs us to rise from our knees
but who, of the gathered, is listening.

F - follow me follow me follow me follow me
today is the fountain from which you must feed
forget that you fell from that Genesis tree
the fruits and the flowers are not fantasy

G - "God" is the guess that they want you to make
but grace, when it's granted, won't let you partake
go further instead, to the uncharted lake,
where you know golden swans are a-swimming.

H - the earth softly utters a holier word
in the hollow where bickering gods can be heard
"heaven is coming", "it's already occurred!"
they shout in the faces of unnoticed angels

I - this, the illusion we ironically see,
that I am not you, and you are not me
like ivy its climbing and choking the tree
that, despite a great crown, grew from one common seed

J - jewels of sweat on the Jesuit brow,
mecca vibrates under thundering bows
and the monk, at his table, cannot fathom how
there is only a mouse in the temple of Now

K - yet who can contest its most curious might?
this killer of kings, this glorious knight
who quiets the enemy, not with a fight,
but almost as if letting go of a kite?

L - in longing to know, we must love the unknown
with Kierkegaard, trembling, and aching for home
we leap and discover the light in a stone
is the very same light in the  heart of a master

M -  "master?, what master?", the suicides ask
"How am I a slave if I know not my task?
How can I love God when I know it's a mask
that my own starving mind has created."

N - Napoleon squirms in his watery grave
and Nietzsche's  convinced that there's nothing to save.
he spat on the flowers the poetess gave
as she murmured the sonnets of Rilke.

O - Overmen shatter, but archers will go,
even though hard the seasons of suffering blow
watch how he opens, caresses his bow
in the midst of uproarious battle.

P - piercing all shadows with blistering light
the arrows flies high through the perilous night
love, sent in earnest, will always make right
the erroneous aim of its sender.

Q -  then what must we make of the stumbling queen
who gropes in the firelight for answers unseen?
she poisons herself to dismantle the scene
that plays and replays in her memory.

R - ravens assemble all over her chair
and peck at the riches of rags in her hair
tangled in puppetry, courting despair,
her play will crescendo to ruin

S - that's when Seymour appears, his lost sister to claim,
like the monk at his table, he tells her, "don't aim,
how can you see, when you're drowning in shame,
the You that is ancient and without a name?"

T - "Tomorrow torments you and time is the terror,
a watch is the gift that will torture the bearer.
to live is no art -  art is for the pretender
to live, my dear queen, is an act of surrender."

U - "Undo the divisions a hungry heart makes
remember the swans in the uncharted lakes
theirs is a silence that slowly unties
the veil that for so long has covered your eyes"

V -  a veil, she imagined, a veil of lace
with patterns the mind wants to frantically chase
a veil that, though lovely, obscures the true face
of a queen who is yearning to see.

W - who will record the inquiry herein?
all of these questions have answers built in
Wonder is all, and forever has been
the jewel in our cognitive crown

X - sometimes there is simply no need to explain
the sexier side of existence is plain
delicious it is to know pleasure and pain
to court them, but never to marry.

Y - you are the puzzle, you, the perfection
you, the miraculous, living reflection
of everything vast and beyond feeble sight
you are the gravity creature, alight!

Z - like sandbags from magical hot air balloons,
we cut at the rope of our fictions and soon,
there's a You that is ancient and without a name
and zenith and zero are one and the same.