Jennifer Mascall & The Gracefully Presented AltoidsFriday, October 20, 2006
Wednesday at Brief Encounters at The Anza Club, a woman was sitting to my right. In the dim light, with the help of glasses, she was reading a thick French novel in spite of the jungle driven booming sounds of DJ Jacob Cino. She seemed impervious to it all and in my imagination she could have been British Royalty slumming for the evening. But the woman who opened a little tin and then offered me an Altoid, with the panache that belies the grace of a dancer, was choreographer Jennifer Mascall (left).
There are many fantastic choreographers in town like Cori Caulfield, Susan Elliott, Peter Bingham, Crystal Pite, John Alleyne, Judith Garay, Day Helesic, Emily Molnar and more. But only Mascall (and Crystal Pite) seems to have gone beyond in a wonderful off-the-wall wierdness that manages not only to be in exquisite taste but also happens to entertain while pushing the boundaries of narrative.
It has been a few years since I came to realize that 5 photographs tell a better story than 1. I call them narratives. Mascall has been narrative-driven in her ballets since the first one of hers that I saw, on Emily Carr, called The Brutal Telling in 1998. She had crowds of dance enthusiasts (including this one, with wife, eldest daughter Ale, and two granddaughters) going from one West Vancouver garden to another in her 2004 Garden Dances series. This work even included some swimming and trampoline dance that so appealed to my granddaughters that they tried to emmulate dancer/swimmer Ron Stewart by plunging into the pool in clothes.
But the work that has persisted in my mind as the most challenging work by Mascall was her 2003 Housewerk performed by her troupe at Hycroft Mansion in Vancouver. In the first section the audience was shepherded to one room. After that we were divided into four groups and we all saw the next segments of the dance in different rooms and in different order. The narrative was a narrative that I would simply define as a dance version of hypertext. My Rebecca, who was almost 6 stayed awake through the whole performance that featured the less booming sounds of Jacob Cino. In the large drawing room, jazz pianist Paul Plimley improvised while the dancers finished our version of our finale. In the photo here, from left to right Katy Harris-McLeod,Sophie Allison, (below) Keely Remillard (with broom), Ziyian Kwan, Dean Makarenko, Jen Murray and Ron Stewart (far right).
Mascall Dance Company