Thursday, January 28, 2010

PuSh 2010: Poetics

First, they are called “The Nature Theater of Oklahoma”. Second, the description of the company in the PuSh brochure says they’ve been referred to by the New York Times as “the most buzzed about new troupe on the New York avant-garde scene". And, third, the title of the piece refers to it as a “ballet brut”. You put all these things together – nature theatre, avant-garde, and ballet brut - and I hadn’t a clue what to expect.

Then the performance begins and quite quickly you begin to smile. Then you start to chuckle a little to yourself. Before you know it you’re laughing out loud. And, by the end I was smiling and laughing so hard my face hurt.

I certainly didn’t expect that but what a good surprise! Poetics: a ballet brut is nothing what you would expect and so much more. Yes, there is no speaking, so it is “experimental” or avant-garde. The nature theatre part actually refers to a quote from Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel Amerika. And, the best part about it, is the fact that the performers have no formal dance training yet still masterfully create the movement of the piece.

Hugely entertaining, Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska, creators of The Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and directors of this piece, take every day mundane gestures, put them to various pop tunes (ABBA, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer) and press repeat. The various gestures are repeated from various angles and with varying attitudes to create a playful and hysterical look at our everyday reality. The sleeping sequence to Gary Wright’s “Dreamweaver” (you know, the song in Wayne’s World) is especially clever and witty.

I was also lucky enough to be part of the audience participation factor. But don’t worry, it’s not scary, they spray themselves with breathe mint before they approach you...

It’s not what you think but it’s pretty funny (just sit in the centre if you don’t like audition participation). The last sequence is outstanding but I don’t want to give it all away. This is a piece that has to be experienced to be appreciated – me talking about it won’t do it justice - so go get your tickets. I’d do it now if I were you. It’s a small space and it only plays for 3 more days. And, if you miss it, you will be missing out on something great.

Poetics: A Ballet Brut is at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown until Saturday, January 30. On this final Saturday there is a matinee at 2pm and an evening performance at 7pm and at tonight’s performance there will be a post-show talk.

(Photo: Peter Nigrini. Courtesy of the PuSh Festival)

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

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