Do You Want To Live Forever?
by Allison Elizabeth Burns
54 min / Dance, Poetry, Experimental / PG
Before we begin, here are two quick definitions.
Contemporary Dance: Incorporates many styles of dance and movement and blends them together with quick and unpredictable changes in music and sound often in order to communicate a story.
Narrative Poetry: Tells a coherent story through (usually) metered verse. For the most part, it uses characters to convey themes.
Do You Want to Live Forever is an audio-visual spectacular born of the brilliant mind of Allison Elizabeth Burns, as well as her collaborator Travis Martin. The dance/poetry piece takes place in a magical soundscape that combines surprising and ingenious prerecorded elements together to stimulate and delight while using “Summertime” by George Gershwin as a refrain.
Burns’s choreography is able to convey so much through at times simple and at times breathtakingly complex movements that pair perfectly with the lemon strewn set that she sets up in the early part of the performance. The recurring use of lemons as visual representation of the sour/sweet life motif was quite a lot of fun. The movement in this piece takes on several visual art styles – sometimes evoking a Monet like impressionism, and at other times taking on a more abstract, or even expressionist Van Gogh like quality. The movements of each of the performers are breathtaking to watch.
However, this is not surprising, Burns has been dancing in and presenting work all across North America for the better part of a decade. Several years ago, I attended a For Body and Light performance she collaborated on and am still mystified by the interaction between the company’s dance and the poetry of Ian Ferrier.
In this show, Travis Martin authors the narrative poem saddling the dance. He tells the story of a wander-lusting immortal with whom a female protagonist (played by Burns) elopes. Maum, The Goddess of “Now” – breathtakingly portrayed by Alya Graham – enters and the show quite literally dances around the question asked in it’s title.
Martin’s poetry weighs down the spectacle, instead of floating alongside the other sound and movement his words diminish. Nothing is ever stated plainly, or with clarity. The rhyming demands focus while distracting from the other synchronous elements of the show. They rhyme for rhyme’s sake and the lack of precision in the text makes the already convoluted story at times impenetrable. Do You Want to Live Forever opened the same night as the Griffin Poetry Prize was awarded and how lovely it would be to see Burn’s cast and choreography perform alongside a more focused, artful, and professional work.
Martin was however, an able dancer and played the role of a man desperate to hold onto his beloved with conviction and skill. Though, the choice of costume for him was an odd and bland addition to the otherwise vibrant universe the play inhabits. Even the brown and black Maum costume popped in its organic splendor, while Martin’s semi-formal dead autumn drab weighed down the stage. I hope it is changed for the rest of the performances because his movements despite all this were, as I said, well executed.
It’s unusual to walk into a room and experience beauty, but Do You Want To Live Forever? is a visual and (for the most part) auditory exercise in the sublime. A lady walked out five minutes in but I was captivated.
Do You Want To Live Forever? by Allison Elizabeth Burns is playing at Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Ave) until Saturday June 17, 2017. Tickets cost $12 online and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the show schedule and box office info. Apt613 is trying to see every show on opening weekend of the 2017 Ottawa Fringe Festival. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.