By Jay Menard,
Conversations Never Had, performed by Breath in Mvmt and choreographed by Melisa Boose, is a testament to the power of dance and the power of visual storytelling through movement. And it accomplishes this through a performance that’s at once soul wrenching and emotionally uplifting.
Permit me to repeat myself a bit, but Breath in Mvmt’s style is the embodiment of “Jolie Laide” — a French concept describing something that is beautiful in its ugliness. I described their 2015 show in similar terms and it is more true than ever before. That’s not to say that the performance is ugly in any way, but it’s raw, it’s visceral, and Boose’s choreography extends beyond the mere crafting of steps, but into pouring the dancer’s soul onto the stage.
The “ugliness” is a style that embraces the conventions of contemporary dance, then twists and turns them into a result that transcends the style.
The choreography is almost savage at times — bodies move and contort not in the smooth, linear ways that one tends to associate with contemporary, but in a much more dynamic, almost guttural manner. Bodies twist and contort, they fold and collapse, and they press into the stage in a way that suggests the actors are going to push through to the other side — confined not by the physics of the stage but only by the extent of their vision.
But the moments of rawness are counterbalanced by equal moments of grace and beauty — often in the duration of one move. The production, an expression of words through movement, offers a beautiful expression of contrasting emotions and states: strong and weak, vanity and sensitivity, confidence and fear, vixen and Earth mother. The movements range from purposeful and rigid to soft and languid, anguish to sheer joy.
The show features an incredible depth of choreography that’s visually appealing. There are moments when each of the women are performing the same series of movements, but at different points — and it works. It creates a visual element that’s at once visually striking and invites you to look deeper.
The women work wonderfully together and command equal respect. But there are some moments, brilliantly designed, to put the focus on one dance — and one emotion. There is one sequence where Jess Ireland is struggling to find her voice – literally reaching down into her mouth to pull forth a word, a cry, a scream. The other dancers move to block her way, prevent her from expressing herself, but she is touchingly, lovingly supported and pushed forth by Jodi Hall. The struggle in and of itself is both beautiful and haunting to watch.
Conversations Never Had proves that we can speak without words. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions can be expressed through movement and dance. And Breath in Mvmt proves itself adept at translating feelings into dance — and this production is a testament to their skill, talent, and heart.
***** Five out of five stars.
This review initially appeared on theatreinlondon.ca