Adventures in Time, Out of Sync
Updated: Jan 2
Thursday, Oct. 3, 1:15pm
Union Station West Wing
Caroline Laurin-Beaucage in her own work Habiter se mémoire
A lone dancer in a red dress, flesh-toned knee pads and red sneakers.
She moves inside a 12’ x 12’ metal cube structure.
A video screen offers a live-stream bird’s eye view of the dancer in the cube.
The screen also shows a countdown clock marking the lapsed time for this 4-hour performance. Another countdown clock on the same screen marks the lapsed time for the entire project over multiple performances in multiple cities around the world.
Two audio stations host tablets and headphones for audience members to listen to a recording that seems to be an accumulated commentary in the performer’s own voice about very candid experiences during past presentations.
She gestures, undulates, tip toes, twists, curls, paces, jumps, grimaces and more, with no particular sense of choreographic sequence. Her movement generally flows, and she never hesitates but I get the sense she is following the moment, improvising – in some sense of the word. She embodies attentiveness, to her own movement experience and to the evolving dynamics of the West Wing of Union Station as people pass by or stop to watch, briefly or for more extended periods.
I sit on the floor, put a pair of headphones on and hang out for about half an hour. On the audio I hear the performer speaking:
“go in a place where my body feels more like matter”
“it’s a world of sensations and perceptions”
“the weather affects the kind of movement I do; if it’s cold, I need to keep warm and that generates lots of movement”
“there’s so much information in the small details: the way you shift your weight, the way you
look at the small details that surround you”
“I want people who watch this dance not to be excluded from it but to be included in it”
As I listen to the audio, it seems as though her movements sync up with the pattern of her
speech, but how is that possible? This is a recording and it’s only playing through the
headphones. She can’t possibly hear it from where she is.
“what I saw was freedom”
As I hear this on the audio, I look up and she’s simply standing, facing out toward us with her hand loosely closed and held gently over her heart. This gesture looks like freedom to me in this moment.
Then she opens both arms to the side, palms up and begins to flick her right fingers as though she’s gathering something from the air.
On the audio I hear:
“I’m trying to recall some material from the first performance”
Of course. That’s exactly what it looks like to me. Then she says:
“make some movements with some rebounds”
I look up and catch her in mid-jump.
Then I hear the twittering of a flock of birds on the audio. She’s making lots of quick hand gestures. I see tiny flapping wings. There’s no way these things are connected, but in fact they are connected for me here and now. Human beings have such a strong impulse to make sense of things, to infer pattern, to find meaning.
A dance artist/scholar named Kent de Spain once did a major research project with improvising dancers in which he asked them to improvise alone in a studio and, at the sound of a pre-set timer, to record themselves speaking about their experience at that moment of improvising. I’m reminded of this research as I watch Caroline and listen to her recorded descriptions, even though they are not in fact related to one another because the audio is from another performance altogether.
It’s another experience of time delay, like my motion blur upon arrival in the Ryerson Theatre earlier. In this case, she’s in the present through her dancing here, but she’s in the past through her speaking on the recording. And in her immediate live performance, she’s also in her own time delay, “trying to recall some material from her first performance. Living in her memories (Habiter sa mémoire).
And this is in fact what she’s working on in the dancing itself: moving through an attempted recall of her own past performances.
Just then I see that she picks up a mini recorder and microphone from a stool within her cube. She begins to pace around the inner perimeter of the cube while speaking quietly into the microphone. Ah. This is how she generates the audio material for future performances. Makes sense.
I watch as a little boy on a scooter and his mom approach the audio stand. They put on headphones and I think that maybe they will think they’re hearing her now – but I know, and you know, they aren’t. Past and present, out of synch. They remove the headphones and walk away.
Then the voice on the audio says:
“because there’s only 10 minutes left”
But I look at the video screen and it says lapsed time 2:05, which means she has 2 hours still to go today.
I look up and serendipitously catch her eye. I offer a small smile. She returns it, ever so briefly.
I must take my leave and this is how I feel it’s okay to go. But I could watch this all day.
I pass some people sitting on benches watching. Other folks just breeze right on by, focussed on their own journeys through the day. Some stop for a few minutes, curious. And then there are the purposeful trip-trap-trip-trap echoes of high heels on the tile floor.
I turn to leave and glance back briefly. The little boy with the scooter is back at the audio station watching intently and I wonder what he’s noticing…
As I walk through Union Station, I feel part of me remains sitting on the floor of the West Wing watching Caroline. Another motion blur experience. It’s unusual to leave a dance performance and know it’s still going on. She’s still there, moving – dancing. She will be for another 2 hours, (And again Oct. 4 from 12-4. I hope you have the chance to stop by and spend some time noticing the details of her gestures, perhaps listening to the audio and allowing the out-of-synch time experience to affect you too.)
Meanwhile, I move on to other festival experiences.