Liquid Loft (Vienna)      Dancer's Studio West (Oct 24,25,26) 

There’s interesting inspiration behind Running Sushi. Picture a loud busy restaurant: imagine the way the waiters are always hurrying, shouting to the kitchen, tinkling the glasses, delivering bills, rushing back and forth, negotiating impossibly heavy trays of food, checking on patrons, bumping tables. They perform these movements over and over and over throughout the night, seemingly without beginning or ending. This type of “sequential performance” forms the structure of Running Sushi. It’s made of 12 separate scenes that are performed in random order. In fact, the audience picks the order of the scenes before the show starts. (I won’t tell you how because that would give away some of the fun – just know to come a little bit hungry.)  

Using this random structure means, of course, there is no narrative arch. No plot development, no conflict, no resolution. Instead, we experience the world of a woman and a man in a non-linear construction. Don’t look for the “story” because there isn’t one. We are presented with slices of their life, their intimate moments together. But don’t worry about not “getting it”. Dancers Johnny Schoofs and Stephanie Cumming (from Fort McMurray, AB) execute the movements with wonderful precision and emotional depth. Although there is no story, they portray the strong relationship between the characters clearly.

But there’s more inspired awesomeness.

Running Sushi is performed in the Japanese style of manga, a style of illustration. Wikipedia defines manga as “whimsical drawings”. Think Japanese anime. Running Sushi is a nearly two-dimensional, exaggerated experience of our man and woman’s time together. The movement takes them across the narrow stage from right to left and back with little room to move toward or away from the audience. Set on a raised white platform, Artistic Director Chris Haring refers to Running Sushi as “body installation”.

So, Running Sushi is a Western-Cultural-Understanding-of-Japanese-Art inspired, non-linear,  no-story, modern dance. Hmm, that sounds like most modern dance.

What sets Running Sushi apart is that it is fun! It is highly entertaining and witty theatre. Liquid Loft captures the essence of whimsy and puts it on stage. In fact, the fun starts before the show and continues throughout. The humour is sometimes subtle and sometimes brash but never forced. The emotional connections in the story (but there is no story) are created from real, relatable life experiences. I defy you not to feel empathy for our two characters at some point.

But then there’s the delightful theatrical tricks too. Matching the level of the performers, the sound and lighting are gob smacking. The technology sometimes leads and sometimes follows, driving or supporting the movement, but you’ll be hard pressed to know when it changes. The movement, sound, and lighting come together in design, seemingly without beginning or ending. You’ll ask in astonishment, “How did they do that?” over and over and over throughout the night.

Paul with Mt. Rainier.JPG

Paul Chambers is a retired dancer who was thrilled to dance with Alberta Ballet, Ballet Jorgen Canada and Toronto Dance Theatre.