The other evening at the Rozsa Centre (Echardt Gramatte Hall, Calgary, Alberta) Ensemble Resonance presented a new concert, Images of Canada- a remarkably beautiful evening of 5 pieces of new Canadian music including compositions by Harry Somers, David MacIntyre, Roberta Stephen, Allen Rae and Chan Ka Nin . It was a wonderful evening of sonoroties, dissonance, harmonics enriched by the inspiration of loons, the poetry of Joaanne Gerber, Inuitsongs from 1928 andNova Scotain poet Carole Languille and the skillful musicianship of Colleen Athparia (piano), Steve Lubiarz (violin), Stan Climie (Clarinet/Bass clarinet) and the singing voice of Michelle Todd. What struck me as remarkable was the naturalness, centredness and no -muss -no -fuss approach to the musical compositions. It was a loving and lovely evening.
Robert Greenwood. Artistic & Managing Director . Sun, Ergos A Company of Theatre and Dance. Canada
"The performers throughout this release are first rate- precise and committed- three Bravos!" William Nichols in The Clarinet June 2013
One Thousand Curves, Ten Thousand Colours. Composers, Hope Lee and David Eagle. Choreographer, Luo Mon-Fei
National Taipei University of the Arts Theatre, Taipei, Taiwan.
In these post modern times, one rarely encounters the word "masterpiece" in the description of a new artistic creation, except perhaps with a tone of irony. It is the only word that adequately describes 1000 Curves, the multi media performance that received it's premiere at the National Taipei University of the Arts Theatre on August 26, 2001. Presented as part of the First Cantai Summer Dance-Music Festival,1000 Curves is the result of and astonishingly succesful collaboration between two of Canada's most distinguished composers, Hope Lee and David Eagle and Taiwan's pre-eminent choreographer, Luo Man-Fei. Only artists with full command of their technique and with access to an enviable breadth of imagination could create such a masterful work, filled with so many sensual and intellectual delights.
The piece is a multi-layered investigation of the themes that are present in How Wang Fu was Saved, a Chinese legend by the French author Marguerite Youncenar. Rather than merely presenting the narrative, Lee and eagle musically explore its more abstract themes of growth, seeking, transformation, and dreaming versus reality. Underlying the entire score is an intense awareness of the joy and the pain that are ever present in the life and ultimate transfiguration of an artistic genius.Lee's music unfolds into fluid structures built upon short fragments that repeat and expand into larger shapes in a fan-like manner. The harmonies are bold and fresh, filled with unexpected yet completely convincing dramatic destinations. Eagle's music reminds the listener of a painter's brushstroke: rapid melodic gestures evoking a calligraphic line: washes of instrumental and electrocoustic sound evoking a watercolour sketch; and thick, muscular layers evoking the work of the abstractexpressionists. In creating music with such a vast range of sonic adventure, both composers place considerable demands on the performers. The members of Ensemble Resonance- Colleen Athparia, Stan Climie, Olg aKotova, and Michelle Todd- all of whom are virtuoso musicians, gave a virtually flawless performance that left the listener completely convinced of the shape and destiny of every passage.
Rarely does one encounter a choreographer with a profoundly musical ear of Luo Man-Fei. Rather than merely interpreting the musical elements, she created tableaux after tableaux wherein the dancer's movements and the shapes that emerged from the relationships to each other generated another contrapuntal element to the entire work. Her overall form was intensely musical, presenting thematic fragments, developing them, returning to them in a varied manner and then presenting new elements with even fresher destinations. Her command of the complete dramatic form is so assured that she has been able to present choreographic ideas in advance of some of Lee and Eagle's musical ideas, creating the wonderful sensation of hearing what one had already seen. Fortunately she chose to unfold her material slowly so that the audience would be able to make intriguing connections between the dance, the music,and the projected images. A more vigorous choreographic approach would have drawn too much attention to the kinetic elements and would have distracted the audience from the sumptuous interplay between all of the elements inherent in the work. Her dancers were not characters in a narrative. Rather, they were personifications of the intellectual themes from the story and the musical ideas in the score. Often, they functioned as exquisite variations on the rhythms and geometric forms found in the projected images. The performers from the National Taipei University of the Arts brought and athletic grace to every tableaux, whether as ensemble or as members of duos, trios, or quartets. Their performance was breathtakingly beautiful.
Too often, digital effects overshadow genuine artistic elements. In this performance, the projected images, the amplified electroacoustic sounds and the lighting were all seamlessly woven into the overall aesthetic vision. The mystic paintings of Paresh Athparia, digitally animated, distorted, re-focused, and reassembled by Brent Cariou, created a third layer to the harmony of the piece. Projecting those images not only on a screen at the back of the stage, but also on one occasion, on television screens that seemed to float across the darkened stage, revealed and overall dramatic control that extended choreographc thinking even to the use of advanced technology.
The final tableaux was a masterstroke. While the dancers returned to the ricking formation that began the piece, a painting with a boat on the ocean was projected on a scrim in front of them. The lighting designer, Cao An-bui, then created the illusion that the dancers and the music were disappearing into the painting. This was a perfect allusion to the fate of Wang Fu, who himself disappeared into one o f his paintings. It is impossible to imagine how this fanciful literary image could have been achieved without a perfect coordination of dance, music, lighting, and digital media.
It is the mark of the highest artistic achievement when a piece not only compels a repeat performance but also points to hundreds of other possibilities for others to pursue. Such a work is 1000 curves .
Allan Gordon Bell for MUSICWORKS Magazine.