BWW Review: EDGE SERIES Tantalizes at Firehall Arts Centre

BWW Review: EDGE SERIES Tantalizes at Firehall Arts Centre

A day passed. A new dancer emerged out of the womb of night. His body, blank with chalk, quivered with inhuman intensity in the dim light. As under the curse of a hallucinogenic intoxication, his eyes burned with a flood of visceral agony for what felt like an eternity and was, in fact, the passage of a few very deliberately paced minutes.

Choreographer Jay Hirabayashi crafted Oxygen with the hellish delight of a quixotic visionary in love, with mystic gravity of simply being alive. To breathe in this world of lost humanity is one of the most gripping of affirmations for the modern soul. Set to the mind-swallowing sonic charge of "no wave" music by the American experimental rock band Swans,Oxygen went places where dance so rarely goes.

Dancer Billy Marchenski put out a death-defying performance. His body transformed with the boggling elasticity of the very air, becoming nothing more than the chemistry of molecular movement. At one point, as he turned his back to the audience, his musculature and fat quavered in the spotlight. As he shook rapturously, moving shapes and gesturing faces could be seen in the contours of his skin.

A night, and a day passed. The condemned hotels of DTES creak with long-defunct neon signage. Chinatown butts its ageing head up from the south, and Gastown rears its haughty gentrification from the west. That the hotel signs remain unlit by night makes the neighborhood look even more desolate.

At the Firehall Arts Centre, The Mars Hotel is opening. A vagrant jazz musician saunters into the hall, late, as the audience stares at a closed, red curtain. He invites us in, where youth runs wild like the bygone Buffalo, and love is as combustible as Chinese New Year in Gastown.

Originally a piece of flash fiction written by Vancouer writer, P.W. Bridgman,The Mars Hotel is a rightful inspiration for a sharp, cutting treatment of love in the 21st century. Going a bit off the beaten page, from the fiction of Bridgman to the choreography of Ziyian Kwan and dramaturge of Maiko Yamamoto, dancer Noam Gagnon walked into the audience, dragged his gay lover onstage, and kissed him in the spotlight with a fiery, chemical passion.

Composer and cellist Peggy Lee devised a noise extravaganza of the heart, splayed to the end of all knowing and certainty, luring the audience to travel beyond the realm of mere contentment, to where love lives. It's a place called The Mars Hotel, and outside one can hear the sonic boom of engines revving to the masterful exactness of Aram Bajakian's unparalleled electric guitar.

Ziyian Kwan, also one of the two principal dancers was, at one point, adorned in nothing but a stylish trench coat and tight black underwear, as she rammed a leaf blower into an enormous white beach balloon, reading the word, "Love" in bold. The modernity, and the honesty of the dance, led the audience to reimagine the concept of Love.

And the dancers asked, as they threw their hearts out into the open air for all to see, and feel the common release. Then, the dancers took whatever semblance of shame and repression may exist among the society present and blasted it to the stars by the raw creative energy of the performance.

Truly, Love is a concept that has been raised to the heights of theology. Like an exploration vessel in the tempest-tossed waves of secularism, true art calls into question every last preconceived dogma.

So, as the subjectivity of divinity, of god as within, has gradually come into social acceptance following the cultural and spiritual revolutions of the Sixties, there may be yet a revolution of love brewing in the heart of each and every last individual of today. Simply, as once a man said, I am God, and shook the foundations of religion, so the masses may soon live with the idea that I am Love, and free love of its possessive objectivity once and for all.

Photo: David Cooper

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Matt Hanson Matt Alexander Hanson lives and writes in New York City and Istanbul, where he is a regular contributor to the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah and freelancer for international magazines such as 212, The Carton, Yes! among many others in his twelve years publishing criticism, journalism, fiction, poetry, art, photography and research as a former resident of Egypt, Canada, Mexico and Peru. He is currently publishing a travelogue, anthology and novel based on his work in the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina.