Symphonie 5.1: An immersive journey of light and movement (Review)

by Sylwia Romanowska & Benjamin Kostiuk

Performed on January 20th and 21st at the Timm’s Centre for the Arts, Isabelle van Grimde’s Symphonie 5.1 enthralled audiences with a stunning marriage of lighting, live music, and dance.

The set, with its minimalistic aesthetic and stunning visuals, made for an opening full of intrigue and opportunity. The hour-long performance was a journey of light, modern music, and movement that ranged from subtle and longing to animalistic and convulsive.  The videographer, Jérôme Delapierre, created real-time projections of the dancers which added an otherworldly sense of reality. This allowed the dancers to interact with themselves and each other in a way that only today’s technology can allow. In contrast to the complexity of the projections, the set was simplistic, utilizing black curtains, mirrors and white light. This created an effect similar to light dancing off a crystal chandelier, as well as an intense geometric display of lines and bolder shapes against the blackness. These ethereal qualities were matched by the music, which at many times stole the show. Sometimes channeling the ambient qualities of Brian Eno, and other times the virtuoso of jazz legend Buddy Rich, the music constantly set and changed the pace of the performance.

These elements, although often show-stealing, provided just the right backdrop for four incredible dancers. The performance began with a solo performance from Sophie Breton that showcased the athleticism and rawness needed for modern dance. From someone whose only exposure to modern dance is Thom Yorke dancing in the “Lotus Flower” music video, I was impressed with what the genre had to offer. The music and atmosphere was created until Sophie was joined by Georges-Nicolas Tremblay. He reset the mood, working rhythmically with a single ray of white light, before the music was reintroduced. The performance escalated with growing intensity between Sophie and Georges-Nicolas, who seemed to be dancing neither together nor alone, until 12-foot-tall projections of the dancers were all that remained on stage. Filling their void were two talented young dancers, Maya Robitalle (aged 15) and Samaël Maurice (aged 13). Maya initially appeared scared of the technology, even alienated by it. Soon, the music swelled, the light show became more erratic, and she was joined by Samaël. The third act was marked by a subtle set change, allowing the audience to break the fourth wall and see the musicians. Thom Gossage and Tim Brady played the guitar and percussion and flawlessly mixed in the music and ambient sounds in real time. For the first time, all four dancers were joined on stage and displayed a remarkable ability to interact while still integrating the music and visual elements.

While the narrative often was above our level of comprehension, the stylistic elements and technical expertise makes Symphonie 5.1 accessible and enjoyable for the those who are not well versed in contemporary performance art.

Banner photography courtesy of Jérôme Delapierre.

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