The Phoenix Zine

The Dance of the Terminally Ill

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Oh, if only that title was not a literal statement.

Saturday night I went out with my cousin Lisa to take part in what I considered the chance of a lifetime.  Okay, maybe lifetime is a bit extreme, but definitely something I wanted to do: be an audience member for So You Think You Can Dance Canada.  Thanks to the National Ballet of Canada, I got my chance when I was offered a deal to buy both a ticket to the ballet and a ticket to So You Think You Can Dance Canada.  It was the week of the top 20 and when our favourite choreographer Mia Michaels from the States came on stage as the guest judge, I was very excited.

I had every reason to be.  I love watching people dancing and seeing what the human body is capable of doing.  It is beautiful and inspiring.  There are moments when the music, the choreography and the talent of the dancers weave together seamlessly to create something truly exquisite.  My favourite dances are the ones that seek to convey a story through the dance itself.  I find such dances (usually) to be very powerful.

But when Amanda Cleghorn and Denys Drozdyuk came up to perform and their choreographer Sabrina Matthews announced her intention to capture the tale of a terminally ill woman and her boyfriend, I was immediately wary.  Amanda came on stage in what was supposed to be a hospital gown, only instead of the blue cotton ones I get in my hospital, hers was white silk with multiple fake ties in the back so there was no chance of her ass ever hanging out.  Denys, the boyfriend, was inexplicably shirtless, considering if Amanda was in a hospital gown she must have been in the hospital and there’s no way Denys would ever be allowed to visit her without his shirt. 

The dance itself was technically stunning, performed to “Perfect” by Hedley.  I think Amanda and Denys are very talented and I enjoyed seeing their lines and the way they moved about the stage.  What tripped me up was the the music choice itself, and the fact that a woman who is supposedly terminally ill (she dies at the end of the dance) was leaping across the stage.  Also, I couldn’t help wondering where her IV pole was if she was in the hospital.

At first I thought my intense hatred of the music and choreography for the dance was a case of me knowing too much to enjoy its’ artistic quality.  Except it wasn’t that.  What bothered me was that the dance was perceived as being romantic.  Boyfriend who can’t let go of his dying girlfriend.  There is genuine conflicting emotion in a situation like that, but I felt that Sabrina Matthews was exploiting it for additional drama and emotion as opposed to earning it through her choreography skills.  I wondered if any dance about illness would have the same problems. 

Choreographer Stacey Tookey proved me wrong later on in the same show however.  The dance she created about a woman facing depression was perfection.  Performed by Charlene Hart and Jeff Mortensen, “Breathing” by Alisa Turner flowed behind their movements, and the three components created a storyline so powerful judge Jean-Marc Genereux had to collect himself before speaking about their performance.  Watching Charlene’s and Jesse’s dance live took my breath away and I felt privileged to experience it.  It was the same way I felt when I first saw Mia Michaels’ work on So You Think You Can Dance with her choreography to John Mayer’s “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” in Season Four.

Going to see So You Think You Can Dance Canada for the first time to find two dances in the same show about illness struck me as an extremely odd coincidence.  What are the chances?  It reminds me of when I went to the Toronto Film Festival with my ex-boyfriend and his aunt and accidentally wound up seeing The Good Heart, a movie all about heart transplantation.  I was on the list for my heart transplant at the time and when I realised what the movie was actually about, I couldn’t help but think what a good story it would be if my pager went off while I was watching it.  No such luck.

I did learn why hospitals don’t use white silk for their gowns from So You Think You Can Dance Canada though.  Not only would they be expensive to clean, they’re also see-through.

You can watch both dances on www.ctv.ca as well as the nine other dances performed by the top 20 dancers on So You Think You Can Dance Canada.  The results show is on CTV tonight at 8:30 pm, EST.

One Comment

  1. Amy
    I consistently enjoy your blog entries. They are thoughtful and so well written. Have you considered making a compilation of these little gems into a book? Your insights perspective and humour deserve a wider audience!

    Anne-Marie

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