Physical Therapy Cabaret at the Auburn Saloon

After an enjoyable beginning to my evening courtesy of the Grand Poney / Steven Thompson double bill I made my way over to the Auburn Saloon for the Physical Therapy Cabaret.  By the time I arrived, the place was hopping with Festival-goers and I only just managed to grab a draft before...

The Cabaret was hosted by the dynamic Jamie Tea.  Who kept things moving quickly and smoothly with enough quirk and charm to knock your socks off.  See her pictured above, moustache optional.

The first piece was choreographed by Alison Bryan and performed by Deanne Walsh, Catherine Hayward & Laura Kleiner.  I should say, I wasn't quite seated when this piece started and the dancers came wooshing by me as their piece began not on stage, but at the back of the room.  As the dancers, clad in dresses and gum boots, took to the stage, a big sweeping piece of music joined them.  At this point one of the bar staff mentioned to me that the dancers would be wooshing by me a number of times.  A warning worth mentioning as the dancers didn't stay on stage long.  For me, their was an element of nostalgia, youthfulness and adventure to the piece.  In any interpretation, a charged way to begin the evening!

The next piece was choreographed by Pamela Tzeng, who was joined on stage by Loretta D'anuto in a clever and comic exploration on communication.  Punctuated by recordings of poignant observations on language, communication and understanding, the two dancers exchange simple, somewhat universal movements in attempts to communicate to more or less success.  What really got me caught up in the action was the almost slapstick like relationship the two characters had with one another, which does in many ways parallel the ridiculous ways we try to communicate with each other.  As the voice mentions at one point, "communicating is easy when it's working out."

Judith Mendelsohn was up next.  Judith is a talented clown performer, and when I say clown I don't mean you should bring your kids.  Judith is an clown for adults.  In her newest escapades, she's going for the big top - Circus Oy Vey's Obo.  And she's pulling out all the ridiculous and far-fetched nonsense she can in order to get there... or where ever it is she can get.  My only hope is that Judith is back from France, where she's been for the last 3 years, to stay.

Following Judith was more hilarity provided by choreographer Mark Ikeda, who was joined on stage by Richard Lee.  After a terrible accident involving gamma rays and a bunch of stuff you'll find in a nerd's wet dream, we find ourselves enjoying an 8-bit Super Mario dance and an 8-bit Legend of Zelda dance to follow.  I was sold right there.  And Mark obviously played these games, a lot, because he had all the details down.  Good on ya Mark.   Plus the best quote of the night, "video games are great, anybody can be a super hero, even an obese plumber who's addicted to drugs."

Next came Danielle Wensley in what I found was a brilliantly timed piece.  After two pieces of comedy, it was a splash of starkness that followed.  But don't get me wrong, there was nothing cold or distant in Danielle's performance.  My attention was caught immediately by the dark silhouette created by strong white light and Danielle's still figure dressed in black as this calm settled over a bar that was bustling only a moment ago.  A testament to the power of a performer.  For me, the piece spoke about a relationship between a dancer and the audience, and how that translates to an understanding of one individual's understanding of identity.  Of course, perhaps I was completely caught in the moment.  But there was one image where she framed her ear with her hands that stood out to me as particularly meaningful.

Steven Thompson put forward what he deemed an etude.  As I've heard them defined in the past, an etude is an exploration or examination of something specific within a larger whole.  He then continued to say his etude this evening would be of his left and right arm.  His piece only got better from there.  Starting with rolling up his sleeves to the lick of some cheesy 80's lounge music sent the audience into cat calls - who knew such skinny arms held such power?  And it was in his cleverness that Steven captured the audience, conducting strings with perfectly timed flourishes of his arms and speaking raps with mouths created by his hands.  Plus the whole thing ended in a shower of sparkles!

To finish off the evening was a very special performance choreographed by Kyrsten Blair and performed by over a dozen of Calgary's dance community who are raising kids and don't get to dance so often anymore.  Good golly, if only ever person could dance with the conviction that these people danced with.  I wish I could dance with the conviction I saw on these women's faces!  It was freeing just to witness.  Not too mention the piece itself was a blast, brilliantly put together and well- executed by all!

Physical Therapy Cabaret runs again next Saturday, October 21 at the Auburn Saloon starting at 9:30 PM.  The line-up is a little different (Judith Mendelsohn & Danielle Wensley will NOT be performing on the 21st, but Denise Clark and MOMO will be) but I HIGHLY recommend this event to anyone, especially those of you new to dance!

Lee Cookson