PuSh Blog

The Show Must Go On Cast Blog: Max Wyman, Jan 6

January 06, 2010

By Max Wyman, performer in The Show Must Go On

After a lifetime as a dance critic, I’m taking to the boards in a dance performance. Last night was the first rehearsal. I have a strong sense that ignominy impends – though that, I think, may be part of the exercise.

I should clarify what I mean when I say “dance performance.” The production is called The Show Must Go On, and it was originally created in Paris in 2001 by the French choreographer Jérôme Bel. It mixes about 20 dancers and non-dancers from a variety of backgrounds and ages to perform a sequence of short items to a range of pop and rock songs. Bel has an international reputation as one of the most interesting innovators and experimenters on the European dance/theatre scene, and the production here is part of the upcoming PuSh Festival, which also likes to test the edges of performance.

Last night, PuSh executive director Norman Armour came along to introduce the coaches who are here to set the Vancouver production and talked about how delighted he was to have been able to put together such a mix of performers to represent Vancouver in this “opportunity of a lifetime” (among the group is former mayoral candidate and social activist Jim Green; a couple of dancers I have reviewed many times – Savannah Walling and Harvey Meller; and luminaries from the theatre and dance scene like Adrienne Wong, Linda Gorrie, Susan Elliott and Billy Marchenski, plus a lot of others new friends I will get to know better as the next two weeks unfold).

Norman also talked about the historic nature of this event: it will be the first production at the new Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodwards, and it will mark a new step in town-gown relations (a significant number of my co-performers are linked to SFU).
I got involved after I saw Bel’s two-man show at the Dance Centre here last year (the Dance Centre is also a partner in this venture, and all our rehearsals are taking place there). At the talk-back after that show, Bel demonstrated what happened in The Show Must Go On: he just stood there with his arms folded and looked at the audience. I thought: I can do that, and volunteered my services to Norman.

Turns out there’s a lot more to The Show Must Go On than standing there with your arms folded. For a start, folded arms are forbidden. Certainly, though, audience engagement is key – even if it is not in the way you might ordinarily assume. At our first rehearsal, choreographers Dina Ed Dik from Germany and Henrique Neves from Portugal simply let us loose on bits of the musical material and challenged us to come up with our own responses to it, which for many of us meant simply improvised dancing. Lots of it. My own contribution was my Prince Charles Shuffle, which I look on as a validation from royalty for the awkward and non-rhythmic of the world. Then they began to guide us in the direction of what they were looking for. The New York Times called the show provocative, cerebral and funny, and commented on how ˝this minimalist work erases the comforting distance between performer and spectator.” That erasure, I think, is what Bel was after when he made the piece.

More about all that later. Meanwhile, I need to soak away last night´s aches a little before we get started again tonight.

The Show Must Go On is part of the 2010 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and is presented with SFU Woodward’s and The Dance Centre. Jan 20-23, 2010 at 8:00pm, The Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, SFU. Click here for full details.