Arts Dance Featured

The phases of Phases

We all go through Phases
We all go through Phases

In its beginnings, Fine5 Dance Theatre was a different company altogether.

“We started a contemporary dance company in 1991, but it worked only one year,” René Nõmmik explains. “And then the five dancers, we stayed from the first company. We work as a project-based company now.”

Those projects have brought the Fine5 scores of acclaim, both in its home of Estonia, and in two decades of touring across both Europe and North America. Phases, the production that doubles as Mile Zero Dance’s 30th season opener, is one such piece: created by the group back in 2008, it spent a few years on the road—winning the best dance piece award in Estonia as it went—before the group moved on to other works.

“This year, we decided to do the remake of the piece,” Nõmmik explains after a whirlwind day of travel to get to Edmonton. “It’s a little different cast and a little different conception.”

In its remount, Phases will break down into three portions. The first, a collaboration with electro-acoustic musician Shawn Pinchbeck, is, in a non-narrative way “about relationships,” Nõmmik notes. “Men, women, how we see these relationships nowadays.”

The second part, tackles bigger social commentary, of the future of society and the planet, but as presented in a technically-taxing mix of music and movement: the dancers are joined with the string Ridere Ensemble playing american minimalist pioneer Steve Reich’s “Triple Quartet.” The third section of Phases lands somewhere between the first two: “Everyone is looking inside of themselves,” Nõmmik says. “What the responsibilities of the person are, in life, in society.”

Pinchbeck, who was involved in Phases’ initial run, met the dancers in Estonia back in 2007 (he teaches sound design at the Baltic Film School). For his part, he’s set up what’s effectively a soundscape playground for the dancers to control simply by crossing the stage.

“I’ve designed an interactive system where the dancers move, and the videocamera picks up their motion,” he says. “And I have software written that triggers sound depending where the dancers are moving. So the dancers control the music; they’re the ones performing the sound in the first 20 minutes of the piece.”

He’s also contributed a collection canadian political statements for between-moment music: spoken quips by prime ministers and premiers mixed in with more bizarre facts like “women blink twice as much as men do.”

“There’s these political statements,” he says, “mixed in with these absurd, scientific fun facts, making the political statements irrelevant and whimsical—which they pretty much are—and just create this mediascape. It’s a bit absurd. ”

Pinchbeck has also been helping the string ensemble tackle the Reich music, no easy feat for even talented musicians.

“They’re very hard pieces to play,” he notes. “I’ve been working with the string quartet and they’re quite strong players, and it’s been a lot of work for them. It’s very exacting, because it’s very rhythmical, and polyrhythmical. It’s not in your standard time signatures. ‘Triple Quartet’ changes time signatures the whole way through, so they have to change the ways they’re counting, and work with all these layered rhythms. It’s tricky stuff.”

Fri, Sep 12 – Sat, Sep 13 (8 pm)
La Cité Francophone, $20 – $25

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