Yes & Sara Does a Solo
By Rita Bozi, Writer, Performer, Somatic Trauma-informed Therapist
This double bill, comprised of two solos, one by Sara Porter (Toronto) and the other by Linnea Swan (Calgary) is advertised as funny and irreverent dance theatre. The evening does more than live up to its description. Video, text, narrative, comedy, theatre, improv, singing, ukulele-playing, one foot tap dancing, crude karaoke and skilled, embodied movement are just a few of the talents on display by two of Canada’s best dance artists.
While both thirty-minute solos are self referential, risk-taking and boundary pushing, each artist conveys her own unique take on creating, experiencing and living dance – not just from the performer’s perspective but from the audience’s as well. Angst driven Swan grotesquely delivers the lines, “Do you often find yourself saying, oh, well maybe I just didn’t get it…Are you secretly terrified that you will find yourself trapped in a theatre watching a show when half the time they aren’t doing anything? And when they are doing something, God knows why they are doing it?” No danger of that here.
Swan’s piece is built around the 1965 No Manifesto by dancer/choreographer Yvonne Rainer revolutionizing dance and reducing it to its essential elements. According to Swan’s fabulously satirical take on this revolution, this manifesto sucked the life, blood and soul out of dance for the next 50 years. Until of course Swan came along and urged us all to say, “YES!” to spectacle, “YES!” to virtuosity, “YES!” to transformation, “YES!” to magic and make-believe.
Swan is a fierce and deeply skilled performer with an instantly likeable personality whether she is audaciously exposing truths most other people wouldn’t say out loud or flashing her smoker’s teeth on a video wearing a faux fur Russian hat. She is a woman who’s had enough and is not afraid to say it!
Yes contains so many layers that I can’t even begin to comb the surface in a short review. Suffice it to say, you are missing the opportunity to be transformed if you don’t see this show. Outspoken? Yes! A little nuts? Yes! I say a big yes to Yes.
Porter’s solo demonstrates this creator’s multiple talents: author, mother, story teller, singer, musician, dancer and visual manipulator. She is a stunning dancer at heart even though she grapples with the dancer she once was, whether she is still a dancer, whether she will be one in the future whether she ever was one. Twice she took a long break. She has a talent for word play and a play on words. These deftly delivered lines are only a few of the clever observations amongst many others: “My improv teacher gave me two important pieces of advice. One, begin before you are ready. Two, don’t begin before you are ready. I follow both religiously.” Playful and touching vignettes weave together intelligently and poetically in this satisfying gift to the audience. My favourite image is of Porter in a red ball gown, playing a red ukulele while wearing one red tap shoe; she taps out a rhythm with one foot and sings the word, “Crazy.”
I might go as far as to say that these are two dance theatre geniuses who deserve to be seen by many more people than show up for this kind of work. They too seem to sense why the masses bail on modern dance, and yet their bold and brash insights are the very stuff of rare and nuanced performance that could actually raise our cultural IQ. If only we all took the risks that these two brilliant, self-exposing women take. There is not one art form that I can think of that takes such expansive gambles as dance theatre, nor artists that stretch themselves in this way. Bravo to Sara Porter and Linnea Swan, I bow to their feet.