I have always struggled with how to describe dance in words, a medium that can stir in us, without the use of words, an understanding that is so innate, so visceral. How do you use language to describe something that communicates explicitly without language? Conversely, how do you make commentary on language with a medium that is chiefly devoid of language? The opening show of this years “Dance in Vancouver 2017” festival attempts to deal with just such a paradox. Can dance provide a commentary on how we communicate?
In “Dialogue”, by Wen Wei Dance, six male dancers explore themes of how we communicate with one another. Primarily, how we struggle to communicate, whether that be through foreign language barriers or by simply not expressing ourselves properly, or more profoundly through the inadequacy of language as a medium to convey “true” meaning. For a piece that dealt chiefly with interactions, there was a striking amount of isolation on stage. This was poignantly done so the audience could feel the isolation and loneliness of being misunderstood. Although ostensibly a piece about the understanding of one person by another it seemed to me that a lot of the tension on stage was from the dancers trying to make peace with their own identities in a context of how others might perceive them. There seemed to be the constant play between self-expression and repression.
Quite simply, I loved this piece. A play of polarities, raw yet refined, extremely funny and yet sad. It was beautifully textured with peaks and troughs of moments of pure comic lightness and dark intensity. There were some elements of spoken word which melded gloriously with the choreography. The dancers were fabulous. Appropriately for the theme of the piece, all the dancers met different cultural or demographic profiles, which made for a rich and compelling ensemble. The decision to use only male dancers was canny as the weakness engendered from being misunderstood was exquisitely juxtaposed with the potential physical power of the dancers themselves.
So how do you describe dance with words? I still don’t know. My words can never truly express how rich and beautiful “Dialogue” was, the only way for you to know is to experience it for yourself, so without further ado, I heartily recommend that you seek out this performance- if we get lucky enough for it to return!