Dance review: Monumental

Monumental which is a performance by Holy Body Tattoo to a live music score by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Monumental which is a performance by Holy Body Tattoo to a live music score by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
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When Holy Body Tattoo’s Monumental first premiered in 2005, the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor was just a recorded sound through a speaker. And while the experience must still have been intense, it’s hard to imagine it was anything like having the Canadian rock band with us in the theatre.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Edinburgh Playhouse

Co-creator Dana Gingras describes the live sound as “going right into your bones”, and it’s an apt description. There’s not a guitar chord or drum beat you don’t feel in your entire being – both sitting in the auditorium and standing on stage – because you can sense the dancers feel it too, as they writhe on their podiums, giving flesh to myriad human emotions.

You would be hard-pressed to find a single second in Momentum that wouldn’t make a great photo opportunity. Visually, it never stops being interesting. At the start and finish, it’s the boxes that dominate, light shining, illuminating the person above. But the rest of the time, it’s Gingras and Noam Gagnon’s choreography, which finds these bold dancers thrashing and twitching, reaching and twisting.

When they do finally slump or topple to the floor, the real frenzy begins. Like caged beasts unlocked, they fill the space with a wildness that seems utterly at odds (in a good way) with their smart office attire.

Then, slowly but surely, the brutality begins. Individuals are picked out and isolated, pushes and shoves become increasingly physical, tenderness is in very short supply. All the while, Godspeed You! Black Emperor drives the movement along with a blistering soundtrack.

If there’s a complaint, it’s that aside from the excitement of it all, you struggle to feel anything deeper. Connecting to the humans on stage is a challenge, but with detachment and isolation such a major theme, maybe that’s what Gingras and Gagnon intended.

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