Sylvain Émard Danse: Prelude #1 & #2 (3 stars)

Sylvain Émard Danse: Prelude #1 & #2

Prelude #1: The Circle by Sylvain Émard Danse

Two Fringe dance pieces from Sylvain Émard respond to the pandemic with hypnotic socially-distanced patterns

Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard was originally commissioned to create a piece, Rhapsodie, for Quebec festival Danse Danse in November 2020. Well, we all know what happened next. The challenges of the pandemic led his company outdoors where they created Prelude #1: The Circle and Prelude #2: The Square, two pieces which act as introductions to Rhapsodie.

The minimalist titles should give you a clue as to the tone of these pieces. Both feature the ensemble dressed in everyday casuals (harmonising colours brought out by the broad daylight) as they build meditative dance fugues to scores by Poirier and Martin Tétreault. Regular pulses mark out tempos, electro soundscapes loom and recede, and chimes periodically break the rumbling basslines.

In Prelude #1: The Circle, the shape which Émard's dancers create echoes some concrete pillars of a curved building beside which they stand. Their movements are tiny at first, small awakenings of a hand or neck that escalate incrementally, initially into swinging legs and arms and then into dynamic jumps, expressive undulations to the augmenting rhythms. It's like watching an evolution of motion, striking for the way these dancers maintain pandemic-protocol space, even when they look like they're abandoning themselves to dance wildly.

Prelude #2: The Square has the dancers forming their shape in a plaza surrounded by blocky buildings. The human-created square rapidly shifts into a maze, then into a regiment, always preserving its sharp, right-angled geometry as it reorders itself. Both pieces are hypnotic to watch, and the dancers' technical mastery is tremendous, keeping subtle unity against a fluid, repeating soundtrack. Even as the choreography becomes more curved and intricate, they maintain the crispness of their formation. It creates the effect of a society, individually human, but moving as one.

Prelude #1 & Prelude #2, online at Assembly Showcatcher, until Monday 30 August, £5 per show.

Prelude #2 – The Square

  • 3 stars

Sylvain Émard Danse Sylvain Émard's Rhapsodie is a performance event for 20 dancers inspired by the ritual of dance. Responding to the pandemic, the Montreal-based choreographer created Prelude #1 – The Circle and Prelude #2 – The Square, a site-specific diptych using current constraints to explore the essence of…

Prelude #1 – The Circle

  • 3 stars

Sylvain Émard Danse First came Rhapsodie by Sylvain Émard, a performance event for 20 dancers inspired by the ritual of dance. In response to the pandemic, the Montreal-based choreographer created Prelude #1 – The Circle and Prelude #2 – The Square, a site-specific diptych using current constraints to explore the very…