Nichole Canuso's "Takes' at the Fringe (1st review)

Anatomy of a relationship

The emphasis is on space, time, movement and shape.
The emphasis is on space, time, movement and shape.

The Nichole Canuso Dance Company has done it again, providing a creative, expertly executed work of art in the middle of the Fringe Festival.

Yet Takes is vastly different from Wandering Alice, this company's last major work.

When I wrote about Wandering Alice in 2007 and in 2008, I searched for meaning. I took my cue from the fact that the work itself had a literary antecedent, and that the title character was looking for answers. Alice in Wonderland kept asking questions. She sought self-discovery.

This time, I found myself looking past the story line. This narrative of a couple's relationship is less important than the expression of feelings and the visceral movement of bodies.

Many collaborators are involved in Takes, but only two people are on stage. Nichole Canuso and Dito van Reigersberg portray a couple, living together. We see them behind a veil, enclosed in a large gauze cube, about 20 feet square. Projected onto this gauzy enclosure are video images of the two, from differing angles, sometimes enlarged in size, always moving. At times the video imagery appears behind the players, at other moments it surrounds them.

Audience members are seated on all four sides and are encouraged to walk around during the hour-long performance, in order to experience the action from varied perspectives, and even to walk almost to within reach of the cube.

The ViewPoints approach

Thus the production is a textbook expression of ViewPoints, the theatrical approach (capitalized that way to distinguish it from the common noun) developed in the 1970s by the choreographer Mary Overlie and the director Anne Bogart. In ViewPoints, space, time, emotion, movement and shape receive as much attention as story-telling. Canuso and her company make very effective use of this technique.

We never think of Takes as an academic exposition, however. It connects with us on an emotional gut level.

Dito Van Reigersberg, a founding member of Pig Iron Theatre and its co-artistic director, has collaborated with Canuso in the past, and here he is Nichole's co-star. The tall and handsome Dito resembles a cross between Montgomery Clift and Andy Kaufman: part movie star, part tortured soul. He's a master of idiosyncratic movements with his hands and arms.

Nichole Canuso's spectacular, athletic moves are always tempered by lyrical grace. In this piece, she's no longer the adolescent Alice, but she retains an innocence and spontaneity that leads me to think of this beautiful young woman as a kid sister more than as an erotic object.

Both of them are convincing as a couple, and we're rarely, if ever, aware of them as performers. But when you think about it afterward, you can't help but be awestruck by the physical demands of their dancing. The pair is on for the entire hour. When one has a solo moment, the other is reacting. This isn't like classical ballet, where one partner takes a rest while the other takes his or her turn.

Breaking the wall

On occasions, the fourth wall of theater is broken. Or, because the walls are membrane, it's more accurate to say they are stretched— once with the clever use of a fan, other times when a character leans back against one of the sides. These are among many clever touches in this production.

The show was a collaboration among Canuso, Van Reigersberg, video installation artist Lars Jan, sound designer and composer Mike Kiley and props and costume designer Maiko Matsushima.♦

To view a two-minute glimpse of Takes, click here.
To read another review by Janet Anderson, click here.

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