Review: Lina Cruz’s “Waiting for a Sleepless Night”

by Liliana Guevara Opinska

Alan Lake, Jean-Francois Duke Photo by Mireille Racine

Alan Lake, Jean-Francois Duke Photo by Mireille Racine

Waiting for a Sleepless Night” by Lina Cruz, premiered on August 13th as part of the Robinson series for “Dance: made in Canada | fait au Canada (d: mic | fic). In this work Cruz manages to create a new dance language. Most importantly she manages to create an entire Micro-cosmos in which this language does not seem foreign. A Universe that supports her language in a way that seems natural, organic and harmonious. This Universe comes alive with the help of light-design by Arun Srinivasan and live-music by Philippe Noireaut. In this strange world, performers, Jean-François Duke and Fabien Piché are like subjects of a psychological experiment, exposed to the spectators’ cold, analytical eyes.

The Universe is a desolate place with no stage design or probs. The only thing visible in the semi-darkness is a piano. Duke and Piché seem isolated on a deserted planet. They have only each other and Noireaut’s music to interact with. The choreography seems to be a conversation among the two dancers and Noireaut’s music.

Both dancers resemble “creatures” rather than human beings. Duke and Piché are clearly out-of-this world since they have no clue about money. Piché attempts to roll a 20-dollar bill in order to smoke it, whereas Duke’s creativity induces him to chew it.

There is an endearing strangeness to their movements and the vocal sounds they emit; at times children-like at times feral. Dressed in dark, baggy clothes, with messy hair and scruffy beards they resemble cavemen. They are like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island.

In my mind Noireaut represents the all mighty creator of this bizarre Universe, setting up its tempo, direction and mood with his music. About midway through the piece Noireaut performs an impressive percussion solo, using the piano’s resonating box and his hands as instruments. Duke responds to the rhythm by clapping. This gesture reminds me of a mother teaching her youngling essential survival-skills.

Another memorable moment in the choreography involves one man standing upright and holding the other dancer’s leg to assist him with a “headstand”. The image is reminiscent of a “Yin-Yang” symbol and of the number “69”. This choreographic moment is repeated a second time towards the end of the piece. This time the men invert their positions.

There are moments when the dancers become so interdependent in their movement, so aware of one another that they seem to merge into one being, other times they “decouple”. The conversation created out of choreographic language includes elements of contact dance, weight-shifts, leg-extensions, flopping the fists in the air, slipping on the floor, jumping and mirroring the partner. At times the quality of the movement conveys a feeling of “itchiness”. The cavemen seem to have leeches all over their bodies.

Waiting for a Sleepless Night” is an ambitious investigation into the power of dance as a form of communication, one that complements words and expresses what they cannot.