Dance Review: The search for infinity in Saudade

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Saudade is a curious word. It means ‘a wishful longing for completeness or wholeness, the yearning for the return of that now gone, a desire for presence as opposed to absence.’ Saudade captures the beautiful vulnerability of living as we search for meaning and connection.

Choreographed by Rob Kitsos, Saudade, as part of SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs and the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts, was an interdisciplinary work rooted in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

The rich projection media in Saudade, created by Remy Siu, filled the space with depth and a visual expression of time as the dancers moved four mobile screens through the space in a simple choreography. With the pleasant overload of multiple images being projected on the screens, the floor, and the back wall, Studio T was transformed into an impossible space that emphasized and exaggerated the dancer’s virtuosity.

The wide eyed and tactful physicality of Alexa Mardon, and the continuous support of Cody Cox, Michael Kong, Felicia Lau, and Erika Mitsuhashi illuminated the space just as much as the vibrant projections. As Saudade began, Mardon entered the space and followed a projected pathway of light. Her determination and specificity was immediately recognizable as the human tendency to follow, yet spoke to our constant curiosity of our surroundings and our yearning to explore.

Kitsos created a unique environment that forced the audience to choose their own adventure; split between the intense media, the sounds, the texts, and the dancers’ compelling performance, there was always something to watch. The choreographed moments of sensitive stillness heightened the audience’s awareness of the surrounding media, yet never gave the viewer a break. While refusing to give a sensory break, Saudade continued on a simple trajectory where each moment was a climax in an attempt to connect the infinite to the finite; the human to the technology; reality to one’s desires.

The engaging dynamic Kitsos shaped between the five dancers where opposing physical qualities was met with their contrasting costumes and roles. Two dancers wearing white (Cox and Mitsuhashi) moved with fluidity and softness; their limbs echoed through the space and carved through the projections. Opposing this, there were two dancers wearing black (Kong and Lau) who used a sharp and angular dynamic to express the concreteness of the body and the room.

Throughout the hour-long work, the two opposing forces were never in conflict or trying to dominate one another. Instead, Mardon’s navigation between the two couples highlighted the individual’s search for completeness and the internal struggle between the past, present, and future.

Going in with no knowledge of Wender’s Wings of Desire or Scott’s Blade Runner many of the references felt lost; however, the beautiful voice over speaking of the incomprehensible nature of infinity tied the work together. The media bridged the gap between human expiration and the infinite qualities of images. The sprawling landscapes projected in the studio defied logic as they seamlessly morphed into new landscapes in an ever evolving cycle. Yet, as the bodies began to tire from physical exertion, the audience was reassured that infinity is just a concept and that the undulating images and glowing grids must eventually come to an end.

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Ileanna Cheladyn Ileanna is a Vancouver based dance artist, writer, and coffee consumer.
@ileannacheladyn

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