Montreal-based choreographer Ginette Laurin celebrates 20 years of her company O Vertigo this year, and her new work, Passare, is in part about memory. It is also about “the infinitely large and the infinitesimally small” (Laurin collaborated with an astrophysicist in its creation), and it touches on time, chaos, dreams and angels. With such themes, it could easily topple into the black hole of its own ambitions – indeed, it sometimes teeters on that brink – or shrink back towards the banal. But it also has moments of shivering beauty that brush the sublime.
Passare works though free association, juxtaposing images and actions and letting our minds jump the sometimes vertiginous gaps between them. It can be playful, as when the dancers’ childhood stories gradually become mixed up with each other’s memories to hilarious effect. It can also be luminously beautiful. A hallucinatory dream sequence features a strange antlered creature, a naked angel, an arguing couple, a ghostly caped figure and a lost girl – shards of fantasy and memory that Laurin scatters and reshuffles against a projected background image of a galaxy.
Laurin enjoys such contrasts of scale and intimacy, the collisions between feeling and physics
Laurin enjoys such contrasts of scale and intimacy, the collisions between feeling and physics. A filmed dancer traces sensuous arcs of light with her arms, and their after-image dissolves seamlessly into a picture of the spirals made by a subatomic particle as it decays. Images of trails abound – dancers shadowing each other’s moves, cradling an absent partner, or moving about a grid that is invisible to them but made clear to us on a screen.
Laurin’s is an almost Blakean vision: the human body as merely the material form of a vaster, numinous universe of memories, dreams and the laws of nature. The closing scene lights the dancers’ hands on the darkened stage – radiant orbs that burn into the backdrop and remain hanging as the stage empties, like fading stars.