McLuhan-related Programming at Vancouver’s Annual Chutzpah Cultural Festival, Feb 19-Mar 15



The performances described in the review below ended yesterday, Feb. 28. Marshall McLuhan had a deep and abiding interest in artists, who, following Ezra Pound, he considered to be the “antennae of the race”. So it’s not surprising that artists continue to have an ongoing interest in McLuhan’s ideas. “Poets and artists live on frontiers. They have no feedback, only feedforward. They have no identities. They are probes.” – Culture is Our Business (1970)

Artists are the antennae of the race but the bullet-headed many will never learn to trust their great artists. - Ezra Pound

A Chutzpah Festival presentation. At the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre on Wednesday, February 25. Continues until February 28

The latest Chutzpah dance program is a study in contrasts: the intellectual next to the gut-instinct; the measured and the messy.

On one hand, you have fast-emerging Vancouver choreographer Vanessa Goodman staging a studied, carefully orchestrated ode to the theories of Marshall McLuhan and Glenn Gould. On the other, you have fearless Israeli renegade Idan Sharabi throwing it all against the wall in a virtuosically spastic exploration of home, politics, and identity, set to everything from his own interviews with people in Gaza bomb shelters to Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov’s Scheherezade and songs by Joni Mitchell. The impressions you left with were of cool, grey and white brain food and then Sharabi’s wild, balls-to-the wall dance innovations—enough stuff to feed the head and the heart over what was, admittedly, a long evening.

Goodman’s Wells Hill (named for the street of McLuhan’s family home) uses dance to comment, sometimes ironically, on the texts of Gould and McLuhan, who shared many prescient ideas about technology and art. (The Canadian icons also appear in fuzzy video.) The piece opens with a projection of the famous McLuhan quote “Art is anything you can get away with,” counterpointed by Goodman’s dancers going through classic dance motions to echoey studio-piano music.

Wearing white dress shirts and grey bottoms, like deconstructed suits from the McLuhan era, the six dancers are top-notch, including an expressive Lara Barclay and James Gnam. The most powerful moments are when they enact, metaphorically, the hold media has on us, punctuated by voice-overs like the one of McLuhan warning that TV is feeding an unprecedented amount of information at high speed into children’s brains. At one point a dancer manipulates Barclay like a doll, covering her eyes, moving her hands and legs, and doubling her over; soon others join in, moving her till all five of her stage partners have overtaken her body. It’s in scenes like this you can really sense Goodman’s ability to choreograph; she also excels at creating a look and atmosphere, here with James Proudfoot’s stark white spot and fluorescent lighting and Gabriel Saloman’s original-sound compositions. (Source: )

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