40 minutes | Dance, Solo | PG
When I was first assigned to review raw footage, the first thing I did was look up “contemporary dance” on Wikipedia and then desperately searched Youtube for “contemporary dance examples” — I figured a basic education couldn’t hurt. Then Friday night rolled around, I took my seat in the middle-centre, and immediately had to throw out any preconceived notions about what I was about to see.
raw footage is a dance production composed of three solo performances created and performed by Cathy Kyle-Fenton, along with Mary Catherine Jack and Nicola Henry, all three of whom teach dance at The School of Dance in Ottawa.
Cathy Kyle-Fenton opened the performance and it was immediately clear why she called this raw footage. Studio Léonard-Beaulne is a small venue – capacity is only 65 seats – but any bigger, and I don’t think raw footage could work. The sound of Kyle-Fenton’s feet swishing against the floor to the slow measured breathing against the backdrop of a guitar-plucking soundtrack that sounded like how a summer breeze feels, setting the table for a performance that was raw, honest, and wide open to interpretation.
The second act, titled “The Pink Lady”, features Mary Catherine Jack in a tight-fitting evening gown, portraying a woman fighting against the forces of time and the inevitability of fading beauty. Her confident sexuality — amplified by her intense eye contact with the audience as she thrust her hips and slid her body atop and across a table and chair — devolves into panic as her “face, tits, thighs, and ass” aren’t where they should be anymore.
Described as a desire to surround oneself with life-giving light, “…to the light”, the third and last act has candles vaguely arranged like the stars of the constellation Pleiades. The stage light fades in and Nicola Henry appears: young, beautiful, sombre and full of grace — like the moon in a field of stars on a pitch black night, as the music, slightly glitchy and disjointed, pounds on like a beating heart as Henry absorbs all the light around her, and everything fades to black.
raw footage is an honest, experimental, and minimalist work-in-progress. At times, the narrative felt a little muddled and ambiguous – but as an exercise in interpretive dance, this was probably intentional. With minimal props and excellent lighting work, the dancers were always the focus — captivating in their movement and challenging me to understand their stories. At times, the music felt a little out of place, but not enough to detract from the intensely personal performances. This is the kind of show for audiences that want to feel challenged — and if you’re looking for something straightforward, this is not for you.
raw footage is playing at Studio Léonard Beaulne on the Univeristy of Ottawa campus (135 Séraphin-Marion Private) on Saturday, June 18 – 5:00pm; Sunday, June 19 –7:00pm; Tuesday, June 21 – 7:30pm; Friday, June 24 – 5:30pm; Saturday, June 25 –3:00pm. Tickets are $12.)