Review Katrina Marsh
55min | Dance | General
ARCHIVED REVIEW FROM FRINGE 2010
It’s the question that perennially haunts both dilettantes and committed art lovers alike: does art have to make sense to be good? More intellectually inclined individuals, drawn to art by the stories or ideas it conveys, will answer yes. Those who find enjoyment in abstract beauty alone, and find the constant search for meaning a bit pedantic, will lean more towards no. Ultimately, it’s one of those issues whose answer lies in the preferences of the individual.
If you belong to the first camp, you’ll find watching Art Dexo a frustrating experience. The show is an hour-long dance performance punctuated by very few short bursts of dialogue and narration. Modern dance can be a notoriously abstract art form, but that doesn’t mean that a clever mix of movement, shadow and props can’t be used to tell a compelling story or share a novel idea. However, it seems as if Kirstin Dexnis, the show’s choreographer/author, isn’t even attempting to convey a message to her audience.
This is surprising, considering that the performance notes say Dexnis is a candidate for a Masters in Creative Writing who “uses words as her creative base.” In fact, there are only a couple of scenes in the show that incorporate any kind of dialogue or narration, and those that do mostly play to the worst stereotypes about creative writing students. Like when two of the dancers take to chanting random words in succession: Freedom, Grandmother, Choice, Place… Lounge Chair. One exception to this general state of affairs was a brief dialogue-and-dance-duet towards the middle of the performance. For me, this tersely written vignette, about the genesis of a romance, was the show’s highlight.
Art Dexo does better as a visual spectacle, and fans of stretching sinews and flexing muscles will find much to admire. Although there are a couple of awkward moments, especially when one dancer tries to lift another, overall it’s the performers’ contortions and pirouettes that carry the show. The use of costume changes to mark the transitions between scenes was also helpful, serving to break up the scenes into more easily digestible parts.
Overall, I was left wishing that Art Dexo had struck a better balance between message and movement, since focusing more on themes or story would have made the relatively strong dance performances more entertaining and enlightening. When you’re not trying to say anything, an hour is a long time to not say it in.
Art Dexo by Kristin Dexnis is playing at Venue 4 – Academic Hall (133 Séraphin-Marion) on Saturday June 19 at 6:30pm, Tuesday June 22 at 8:00pm, Thursday June 24 at 8:00pm, Saturday June 26 at 12:30pm and Sunday 27 at 6:30PM. Tickets are $10 each.