I realized after watching Joe Ink.’s 4OUR, that my writing could never be as articulate as those dancers’ bodies. The complex, precise, and strong movement of Gioconda Barbuto, Heather Dotto, Kevin Tookey and choreographer Joe Laughlin, blended together in a flurry of limbs to reflect the unfolding of the human and familial relationships that shape our lives.
A work about connection and separation through the imagined and the remembered, the multidisciplinary approach of 4OUR emphasized the unified movement quality between the dancers and established a common choreographic vocabulary used throughout the piece. I am amazed by the rigour of the hour-long work, loaded with images and dense with data on impersonal and personal encounters.
The relentless virtuosity presented in 4OUR affirmed the necessity for highly trained, extremely polished dancers to present dance works. Blurring the line between narrative and interpretive, I was intrigued by the conceptual movement that featured extraordinary flexibility, balance, and physical sequencing while still being able to experience the explicit concept of relationships.
Current dance-makers in Vancouver commonly fuse physical ability with abstract and experimental concepts in both choreography and design. Laughlin followed this tendency, yet he emphasized the concrete and real complexities of relationships through a lifetime. It was beautiful to see representations of how a family is embodied in the whole – repeating and augmenting similar movements, each member held pieces of the others in themselves.
The music, including remixed versions of Bach’s popular pieces, was as unyielding as the movement. The first moment of silence, giving the ears a well-deserved break, arrived halfway through the piece and marked a transition from the group to the individual. The gravity of Bach did not always match the creaminess and lightness of the movement. Yet the continual construction through deconstruction of the space and self-awareness maintained the heartbeat of family and time.
Being able to see physical exactitude show the ambiguity and complexity of human relationships strengthened the choreography’s link between the costumes, lighting and projections. I found the clever interactions of the dancers with projections of their own faces to highlight the confrontation we have with ourselves when navigating our connection to others. The paradoxical opposition of the illusive lighting and the bold projections with the languid and jaw-dropping dancing further developed the connection between the physical and virtual aspects of the show – the visceral dancing and the assumed ideas paralleled the realm of the unknown in human connections.
The narrative of relationships shone through in the moments of pause: when Dotto reluctantly dressed in what suggested a wedding dress, or when Barbuto helped Tookey removed a cage-like prop from his face. The interpretive moment of Laughlin donning an angelic white chiffon-like robe drew the mind towards memories of childhood and personal ghosts. Other ethereal white costume-props conjured other ghosts for the dancers – I thought about Salman Rushdie’s thought of how “every story is haunted by the ghosts of the story they could have been.”
At moments, I felt that any sense of narrative was couched to affirm the sinuous complexities of relationships, yet I often saw common patterns of human relationships: husband/wife, friends, new lovers, and mother/daughter. Overdramatized faces, and moments of forced pedestrian movement sometimes distracted me from experiencing the stories being told in 4OUR, but ultimately the ideas lost in the translation of human experience to the stage gave room for the audience to empathize. I was comfortably presented with a mirror into my own relationships – past, present, and future.
4OUR played at the Scotiabank Dance Centre from October 1-3. Check out Joe Ink.’s upcoming work here.