Last weekend, Mile Zero Dance presented the world premiere of Mar e Bito, an original piece choreographed and performed by international artists, Yuko Kaseki (Germany/Japan) and Mari Osanai (Japan). It was a full house—the audience pressed against the performance area and filling out the rows of tightly packed chairs and cushions.

Mar e Bito begins with two figures: one lying down upstage and the other crouched toward the back, both shrouded in darkness, appearing as mere shadows and silhouettes. As the show progresses we begin to perceive the slow floating gestures of the figure closest to us. She is dressed in black and her face is covered in dark fabric. We can see the contrast of naked hands and feet against her clothing and against the dark floor as she gently spirals and pours her body downstage with the quality of melting ice or that of stones eroded by rushing water. Meanwhile, a light begins to brighten towards the back of the stage, silhouetting the figure that is crouched there. It shines through her limbs and sometimes strikes our eyes. She is moving closer to us, walking along a straight line and in time we see that her face and head are wrapped in a white gossamer fabric, revealing the glint of inward-looking eyes. Her gestures are amorphous and expansive, challenging any perpendicular relation with gravity and her proximity to the audience is commanding if not a bit unnerving. As she gently pulls at one thread of the textured material on her face, drawing it out like strands of cotton batting, we have the sense of melting, distorted flesh or of dust and cobwebs drifting through beams of light.

According to the program, Mar e Bito means the sea and river in Portuguese, but it is also a Japanese word, ????, which can be translated as a spirit, stranger, or monster visiting from beyond the ocean. This work certainly carries this ethereal, ghostly sense. It is a somber piece interspersed with brief and occasional moments of levity and delightful non-sequiturs. In one such instance, the introspective, descriptive text and movement of one of the performers is suddenly interrupted by the incursion of a French pop song, causing her to enter into a style of movement fitting of a discotheque or wedding reception. The moment is extremely exciting and her foray into these quick splashing motions amid suddenly intense amber light is in beautiful contrast to much of the other material, causing our sense of Mar E Bito’s aesthetic tone to fracture and split off in many directions.

The duet is rich and dense—the performers obvious masters of their craft. Not a moment passes that is not rife with the most precise folding, spiraling gestures. Mari and Yuko offer up a work that skillfully balances stillness and tension with turbulence and surrendering release. They are extremely generous performers, giving themselves over to the depth of sensation and the transformation of physical and mental states. We are fortunate in the audience to bear witness to their invocation and are indeed moved by the ghosts that are born there.

By Eryn Tempest

Eryn Tempest

After having trained for many years as a synchronized swimmer, Eryn Tempest became interested in contemporary and modern dance at Victoria High School in Edmonton, Alberta. In her late teens and early twenties she trained and worked with Gerry Morita of Mile Zero Dance and Kathy Ochoa of K.O. Dance Productions, focusing mainly on improvisation, release work, contact improv and a Japanese practice called Noguchi Taiso. In 2011 Eryn relocated to Montréal to continue her studies at Concordia University, graduating with distinction from the Contemporary Dance/Choreography program in 2017.

As a creator, Eryn is compelled by questions of presence, risk, and spontaneity. She is interested in the way the body finds solutions, the way it is able to gather and direct itself in response to a variety of sensations and experiences. Her work takes on questions of transformation, trace and memory.

Catch Eryn at SubArctic Improv #24 on Friday, April 6.