Choreographer Denise Fujiwara's introductory comments were most welcome. She took us into the deliciously clever poetry of Christian Bok that inspired her with its manipulation of systematicatically deleting vowels. Fujiwara then explained how she applied the concept of artful elimination or constraints to her choreography, avoiding the customary repetoire of dance forms and ensemble dancing. As a result, I was expecting something that might be described as minimalist. Boy, was I wrong!
As soon as the audience entered the theatre we were greeted verbally and welcomed with smiles and open gestures by a dancer. The breakdown between performer and viewer had begun and was a constant in the performance. We engaged in games, won silly prizes, had our photograph taken and projected, we were even served beer, pretzels and popcorn. Engagement would be a key word for me in describing what was at all times and intense dance theatre experience. Unexpected juxtapositions of movement and word fused comedy and tragedy.
Despite the adult content wit and whimsy of Fujiwara's choreography and the seamless performance of her five-member troupe there was no doubt that this was serious dance for serious viewers. It was a sustained and sophisticated exploration of storytelling through movement, spoken word, music, projected text and rich visual use of costume and staging. It was a marathon through literature, visual art, popular culture and more; it left you wishing for a rewind button because you were sure you missed something. Eunoia could be seen several times before its nuances could be exhausted.
On Saturday night in St. John's, the audience eagerly followed every beat of Fujiwara Dance Inventions and erupted into an unequivocal standing ovation for their powerhouse performance. What a way to end a dance festival!