Photo by Denis Farley of Simon Renaud and Justin Gionet

Essay by Emily Deming

“All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.” – J.M. Barrie

Dance is one of the rare times I see men touch each other. It is a reminder that everyone has emotion, an internal scape, whether it is displayed or not.

In the first act of Solitudes Duo by Daniel Léveillé, the two male dancers are so in contact that when they stop touching it means much. It builds their specific spaces and physical male parallelism into more than just an assumption. Which is why it is so satisfying and fulfilling when they come back together and their bodies move in harmonized concert, more like a many-limbed organism than as two separate men.

In each act of this piece, Léveillé uses the weight of dancers’ bodies. Gravity is a conscious element. It is a force within the relationships. Gravity and swiftness and speed and finality. But finality is softened again and again by repetition.

Similar moves are repeated, but, with a different set of dancers, the moves mean different things. They literally carry different weight.

Each duo uses similar gestures and story arcs from the duo before, and after: two bodies, touching in dance but not moving in harmony, then working parallel, coming into and towards each other and themselves, then moving outward and away, out and in, in and out, finally coming into one collaborative body, but leaving alone in the end.

The dancer’s bodies depict emotional states, metaphors of power and romance and growing love and trust and wariness and independence and co-dependence and lust and disgust and boredom; all the feelings of relationships. Until, towards the middle, one duo shows a relationship so entirely born of the body that there is no distance between story and body. Rock music plays, signalling this difference immediately. Flesh and muscle are no longer tools but instigators. This is an exciting part of the show. You come right out of your head.

The minimal use of clothing throughout Solitude Duos also brings us closer to the flesh. It makes us more aware of when bodies are touching and when they are not. It makes contact between the dancers more wet, more dry, more affecting. Seeing a body naked, we remember it can be hurt by nothing more than sliding across a rough surface. It produces visceral empathy.

The minimal use of clothing throughout Solitude Duos also brings us closer to the flesh.

Dance reminds me how difficult real communication is (ideas, feelings, states of being and perspective). The body “language” in Duos can be quite literal (at times directly illustrating accompanying lyrics, “…I want you so badly”), but direct interpretation can still feel like a mistranslation.

Outside of art, in life, even basic face-to-face verbal communications are rife with misunderstandings. Communications online, without benefit of tone or physical presence for nuance, are a mess. Then there is dance, which is all physical, no words, with only the music for hints and tone. Maybe that makes dance an antidote to the isolation of online exposure and our constant affectless (mis)communication. Maybe for each social media platform we are on, we should watch one dance performance.

Dance is also not always easy to experience. This piece, though relatable in subject and classically beautiful at times, is still cerebrally exhausting, and occasionally cold. You do not sink into it, you go through with it. And, like our own relationships, we grow (harder? smarter? easier?) from it, whether we can explain it or not.

Solitudes Duo
Daniel Léveillé
Tuesday, October 3
LSPU Hall, 8pm

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Solitudes Duo photo by Denis Farley, with Emmanuel Proulx and Ellen Furey.