While dance is in part about interpretive movement, it is also about narrative. In the case of the Sashar Zarif Dance Theatre, as Deirdre Kelly smartly points out in Critics at Large, it is also about memoir.
|Katherine Duncanson, Sashar Zarif, Viv Moore, Marie-Josée Chartier, Sylvie Bouchard (Photo: Mahla Ghasempour)|
|Sashar Zarif (Photo: Mahla Ghasempour)|
|Sashar Zarif (Photo: Dani Tedmuri)|
True, Solos for My Life, as its title suggests, is a work based on a life’s journey. Given that the choreographer himself is only 42 (and judging by his on-stage vitality is still very much with us), an argument could be made that the ongoing story of his life is still open-ended, a serial novel, if you will. But for something to happen next, something ought to be happening now. As it stands, the work appears to be all about what happened then – a series of vignettes rooted in memory – without a clear connection to the present or indeed the future, objectives Zarif outlines in his program notes when describing his “collection of personal stories” as the means by which he can move on in life. On stage is what looks to be a makeshift rug-making loom, a symbol of Zarif’s roots in Azerbaijan, an ancient carpet-weaving centre. Frequently, and throughout the piece Zarif, retreats there to knot strings while the others dancers perform their “scenes.” Each tie seems to indicate a passage of time, and as the dance progresses the loom fills up, but without a clear pattern, more a collection of loose ends: talk about symbolic.
Maybe the problem lies (and it’s awkward calling it a problem, considering the cumulative strength of the talents involved) with Zarif inviting other dancers into his choreographic kitchen, particularly dancers as individually inventive in their own right as these four women, veteran performers all. Each brings to the piece her own vivid personality, giving the impression that the work is as much her creation as his. Chartier, for instance, is characteristically impish and delightfully mature-woman sensual, rolling her hips and exhaling audibly when punctuating the air with arms whose sharp pivots and open circles described a semaphore of her own making. Zarif dressed her in a sparkling olive green coat dress he created himself, as if to anchor her somewhere on the Silk Road he travelled in his past. But the choreography, a post-modern pastiche of ethno-dance traditions, wasn’t transporting enough. Chartier was more a mesmerizing dancer of her own design, and less a creature of his imagination.
|Bouchard, Zarif, Moore (Photo:Ghasempour)|
Something similar can be said of Moore, a relative newcomer to the local indie scene and trained in a variety of dance traditions, including ballet and ballroom, who presents what looks a memory of her own dance past: teetering on demi-point and fluttering her arms like a Dying Swan, but at the same time looking pained as she does so, as if all those hours in the studio is something of a bad dream. Bouchard has her own dance signature, an usual balancing act involving her repeatedly lifting one leg so she can glance down at the sole of her foot. Letting go, she gracefully unfurls across the stage, undulating like a scarf in the wind, a picture of serene dance beauty. In one instance she joins Zarif to re-enact what looks like a horse-and-buggy ride recalled from the choreographer's past, a charming bit of dance-theatre involving both dancers sitting side by side on the stage floor and simultaneously scooting forward on their haunches, enjoying together the imagined surrounding scenery as Zarif chatters happily in a foreign tongue.
- originally published on May 14, 2011 in Critics at Large.