Jolene Bailie and Gearshifting Performance Works has been praised across the country! To read more reviews click here.
Otherness, Snow, and Defying Gravity
The Winnipeg Review, by Stephanie Adamov
November 19, 2012
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Aspects of Alterity as performed by Gearshifting Performance Works, at the Gas Station Arts Centre, November 16, 2012
From the first beat of John Cage’s music, Aspects of Alterity thrust the audience into the world of Jolene Bailie. Her choreography used dance and motion in a way that provided a language to illustrate those intangible moments of the human experience. The emotion subtly embodied through movement in this work was a salute to Bailie’s attention to detail and overall created an impressive display of modern dance.
Alterity is a philosophical term established by Emmanuel Lévinas. The term implies a sense of ‘otherness’ and that a subject has the ability to distinguish between self and not self. Therefore, the subject has the ability to perceive alternate view points. This is illustrated through Bailie’s choreography by the contrast of different kinds of motion during the different segments of her production. It is a continuous thread that weaves through her abstract choreography.
The five highly energetic and focused performers included: Branwyn Bundon, Jillian Groening, Nina Patel, Krista Nicholson and Emma Rose. The precision exhibited by each dancer as they launched and landed from great heights was a phenomenal spectacle. Intricate combinations were executed seamlessly and flawlessly from full body wave-like entrances contrasted with stationary leg suspensions. Bundon’s robotic arm movements and Patel’s fluid solo along with numerous moments of group uniformity of motion were definitely a delight.
Despite the highly physical and demanding nature of the piece, the dancers were never out of breath. The incredible focus they each manifested never once faltered.
The dancers through their energetic movements in the work illustrate the complex and fine line between order and chaos. The variant rhythms and monotonous music seem to reflect the sound of a heart beating. This incredible life force has the potential for the audience to be on the edge of their seats or to be entranced by the movement on stage. The sudden changes can be jarring, but it all reflects the theme of ‘otherness’.
Each dancer has trained at the School of Contemporary Dancers where Jolene Bailie is a guest instructor. They were incredibly cohesive as an ensemble and seemed to have an inherent knowledge of each other’s bodies. Due to the exceptional variety of lifts and poses performed in modern dance, it is easy to see why this is a sought after quality for a group piece. Several times in the show, the dancers formed what seemed like a human jigsaw puzzle. The use of levels in coordination with the trust in each other made for a versatile display.
The performers in conjunction with the signature lighting design of Hugh Conacher seemed to glow on the stage. Conacher’s noted emphasis on side lighting exemplified the contrast of light and shadow. This design technique highlighted the muscles of the performers and attested to their individual strength as artists.
In establishing the story, the lighting translated dance transitions for the audience. Effortlessly the performers would be guided by the use of lighting to a different segment of the fifty-minute performance. The white painted floor and backdrop allowed for the contrast of the dancers in their futuristic linear white and black body suits.
As a creator, Jolene was inspired through her own lived experience for Aspects of Alterity. She believes that the way in which we handle those intangible moments can speak volumes about our individuality. Though we all have different experiences that have the ability to leave us without words, Jolene believes that there is great strength achieved by working though these life-altering events that hone our identity.
In addition, Aspects of Alterity was also inspired by the geography of the prairies. Gearshifting Performance Works often creates pieces that stem from the psychological reactions to the environment and reflect upon observations within Canadian lifestyles. Aspects of Alterity presented a very flat, white painted floor that paid homage to the blanket of thick snow seen just outside the Gas Station lobby windows.
The creation was influenced by Bailie’s lived experience in the harsh and extreme prairie landscape, as well as inspired by her relationship with the late Rachel Browne. The passing of this iconic dance figure was certainly a huge loss to the dance community but hopefully will spark more works and creativity such as Aspects in Alterity within the dance community.
Making a human connection
Hybrid Human may be rooted in an exploration of technology, but it has a distinctly human pulse
Winnipeg-based choreographer/dancer Jolene Bailie’s Hybrid Human burst onto the scene last week in collaboration with visual artist Wanda Koop’s retrospective exhibition On the Edge of Experience. The four performances held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery were danced amid five of Koop’s massive paintings featuring tiny solitary figures dwarfed by gigantic screens, making for a jaw-dropping set bar none.
Based on Koop’s sketches dating to the early 1990s, the multi-disciplinary production was heavily influenced by omnipresent technology and modern-day robotics. Six clone-like androids (aka dancers Branwyn Bundon, Claire Marshall, Tiffany Thomas, Christie Peters, Krista Nicholson and Bailie) are virtually indistinguishable — save for cryptic symbols branded on their backs — costumed in Anne Armit’s jet-black unitards/turtlenecks and startling bug-like masks created by Brenda Belmonte. A riveting electronic score by Susan Chafe and Hugh Conacher’s media/lighting design takes us further into their brave new world.
Any show inspired by technology risks leaving the viewer cold. Bailie brilliantly succeeded at creating a starkly postmodern landscape inhabited by achingly, all too human characters. As her society of black, stick-like figures (that seem to have leapt right off Koop’s canvases) show us a day in their own hybridized lives, you can’t help but laugh, cry, and marvel at their antics that uncomfortably begin to resemble our own. When one figure collapses on the floor and appears to sob as only an android can, our hearts break as well. When another forces a partner to spin — first a game that morphs into an act of control — it causes viewers to reflect on our own compulsive drives.
The 54-minute production plays like counterpoint against Conacher’s looming, digitized video projections. Dancers constantly shift between galleries or sit in the audience, which creates another unsettling, meta-layer of consciousness. Bailie’s choreography ranges from robotic-like body isolations to fluid rolls and extensions, with more than a few touches of her quirky artistry on display. The figures skip, turn cartwheels, do handstands, swing their legs and shake their feet like dogs that have stepped in a puddle. They perform strange, ritualistic games, re-create sacrificial ceremonies and hold solemn tribunals.
Arguably, it’s difficult to sustain almost an hour of intense physicality. Some sections begin to lag; in fact, the entire piece could be tightened. There are a few too many obsessive head jerks that recall Bailie’s signature solo Switchback. But the final scene that speaks to the need for human connection is about as good as it gets — with the entire show ranking among the best seen in years.
Hybrid Human is not a cautionary tale about technology, nor does it pretend to offer any solutions. What it offers, instead, is a glorious synergy of creative forces that compassionately addresses the vulnerable yet relentlessly technology-driven hybridized human that lurks within us all.
Holly Harris, Winnipeg Uptown Magazine
Love, War, Dance
Love and War
Gearshifting Performance Works
The Gas Station Theatre
The Manitoban, November 18th, 2009
You can always expect the unexpected when Jolene Baillie puts on a show – and Tuesday’s was no exception.
Diversity was the theme at the Gas Station Theatre in this one hour and forty minute display of not only Baillie’s immense choreographic talents.
The packed house was also treated to a revival of two choreographies from 1955 by Anna Sokolow, who had apprenticed with Martha Graham and was herself an early driving force behind the creation of Modern Dance.
The first piece, private i, was choreographed by Denise Clarke with whom Baillie collaborated in creating the text for the piece. This was a fabulous way to open as its gut-busting humour made it easy for even those illiterate in the vocabulary of modern dance to enter into the performance.
Humorous textual readings received equal billing to incredible athletic dance movement. This was demonstrated early on when Baillie performed a slow, controlled crunch while maintaining animated facial expressions to go along with the sixties music to which she performed. Her tall, sinuous body is nothing but muscle. The piece ended with her collapsing onto a music stand which slowly sank towards the floor while she extolled the beauty of Jimmy Ruffian’s ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’, the lyrics of which were included at the back of the evening’s brochure.
The second piece, Give and Take in the Kingdom of Love, was Baillie’s choreographic contribution to the evening. It was danced by three members of the School of Contemporary Dancers’ Professional Program – Emma Rose, Mark Sawh Medrano and Spenser Halfyard to the music of Georges Bizet’s Carmen against a comic book style backdrop created by Production & Stage Manager Hugh Conacher. The choreography carved out a space between modern dance and ballet. Still retaining the humour with which ran throughout the first half of the performance, it also had moments of pas de deux beauty and eroticism. With these dancers, Winnipeg’s dance community promises to remain vibrant for some time to come.
Following intermission, the second half opened with Sokolow’s two pieces danced solo by Baillie. Using chairs as props – four in the first, one in the second, Baillie again exhibited her dynamic athleticism as she draped herself around, over and upon those chairs. These pieces were part of the pure Modern Dance repertoire.
As was evident from the first half, the current direction of dance appears to be a reconciliation of Modern and ballet together with performance art. Baillie demonstrated that the older style belongs on the same program as the newer in a fusion of styles.
The program ended with The Green Zone. Attendees at the 2008 Winnipeg Fringe Festival would have been familiar with this piece as Baillie workshopped it there. The piece has evolved between then and now. Dressed in a WWII W.A.C. uniform, Baillie created her own Maginot Line by dragging a string at waist level back-and-forth across the stage. She then began to breach this fortification by reciting facts about the level of destruction in the American invasion of Iraq. This was a powerful anti-war protest made even more powerful by its timing a day before Remembrance Day (coincidence?).
Jolene Baillie’s dance company goes under the name of Gearshifting Performance Works. A propos, she shifted gears throughout the evening. As stated in the evening’s brochure, Gearshifting Performance Works defines its mission as consisting of “three main activities: the advancement of education, creation and presentation of dance.” Mission accomplished.
Baillie’s next Winnipeg performance will be on February 18-21 at the Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film where she will showcase her new creation for an ensemble of dancers.
inanimate jungles have clocks
GearShifting Performance Works
Venue 9, Canwest Performing Arts Centre (MTYP)
Uptown Magazine, July 20, 2009
This beautiful, hugely cinematic multi-media work by local dancer/choreographer Jolene Bailie is nothing short of spectacular. A pared-down reworking of this year’s Everything’s Coming Up Roses, inanimate jungles have clocks is a thought-provoking exploration of modern society’s endless, frenzied pursuit of success. But it’s not the theme that makes this piece a stunner. Bailie’s physicality is mind-boggling – whether it’s frenetic or fluid, her dynamic choreography is always artfully executed. The ethereal set also deserves credit. With video by Hugh Conacher and Andrew Milne and text by Jem Rolls, inanimate jungles have clocks is the kind of show that transports you to another world and leaves you feeling dazed when the lights come on. If you see it – and you should – don’t get too hung up on ‘what it means.’ Just sit back and experience it. You’ll be rewarded.
– Jen Zoratti