Ghislaine Doté is a UQAM graduate in dance and has been choreographing dance performances since 2002. Merry Age is her artistic contribution to Montreal’s Black History Month (organized by Agora de la danse, Circuit-Est, le Mai, le Studio 303, Tangente and Nyata-Nyata – celebrating contemporary creation from artists of the African Diaspora).
Merry Age is a story of three couple’s journey through love, passion, marriage, conflict, adversity, and perseverance, told in dance, song, monologues and dialogues, quotes and jokes, music and silences. After all, as the choreographer herself reminded us at the beginning of the performance, “Love is as strong as death!”
No wonder we spend most of our lives trying to understand it, learn how to cherish it, how to give it, how to revere it. Those who don’t know how, spend most of their time running around looking for it. Those who do know, try to share it and its secrets.
Ghislaine Doté has been married 5 years (as she tells the audience in her epilogue) and has experienced different stages of the relationship. Her task as a performer and choreographer is to share her stories.
But how does one portray love through movement? Red shirts and dresses, three couples dancing and embracing, leaps into the air, emotionally charged music, tenderness… Then there is the waiting… waiting for the guys to overcome their fear of commitment, waiting for the proposal… “Wait. Attendez. Esperar.” Trilingual performers dance and sing their stories of the beginnings of a marriage. “Ding dong, time to marry.”
How does one portray passion? A well of bodies, moving slowly and rhythmically, taking off the red shirts and dresses, and dancing in black underwear and pants.
How does one portray marriage? After the initial black suits and white dresses ceremony, the dancers move in squats, smooth and abrupt movements, changing directions and poses.
The second act presents different scenes of a marriage. It plays with gender roles and dynamics (girls wearing black dresses, guys wearing white skirts) – we even see gender inversion, as the girls are lifting the guys, in little, traditional ballet jumps.
The power dynamics are questioned: who determines the directions and movements? who leads, who follows? Who dominates, who is submissive? Dance is the most symbolic signifier for relationships, in fact, the question of whether contemporary dance can be fully democratic and gender equal is at the heart of all contemporary dance vocabulary and choreographic attempts to de-construct classic dance vocabulary.
How does one portray tension and conflict in relationships? So many arguments start with “You never…” – as the couples are moving in the same space, but not always in unison, and begin pushing and pulling, fight, their anger escalates to gender divisions and solidarity and calls for a “revolution!” (in three languages).
In an attempt to mediate and to understand gender relations, one of the performers reads out a quote: “A couple benefits the individual only if the individual keeps the couple in mind.”
Where does that leave us in terms of gender issues, relationships, and dance?
In the closing scene Doté manages to avoid clichés and end on a realistic and even optimistic note: all three couples are moving forward together, supporting and carrying each other, slowly and with a lot of effort, through hard work and resistance, overcoming adversity (sounds of gun shots and laser shots) progressing ahead, slowly, but together.
Merry Age is performed at Agora de la Dance February 15-16-17 at 8pm and February 18 at 4pm.