With Mimic, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and Old Trouts deliver primal pageantry with puppets
The latest offering from DJD is a collaboration between the company and the ingenious minds behind the Old Trout Puppet Workshop — and what a fantastic combination!
DJD’s dancers are so incredibly talented and Kim Cooper’s choreography is just stunning. Adding to the spectacle are (as is often the case with the Trouts) rather atypical and totally unique puppets. Often resembling props more than puppets — be they large pillows, blankets, table clothes, or fuzzy shoulder epaulettes — each puppet is simple but versatile in what they support the dancers to convey onstage. With the help of three talented live musicians, Mimic is an absolute feast for both the eyes and ears.
The show is divided into two acts: Act 1 (“Stamping of Grubby Feet”) and Act 2 (“Air of Sophistication”). Act 1 has a primal, often tribal feel throughout. The musical score is almost exclusively percussion, linking the performance to the beating of the human heart. The costumes have a tribal feel to them as well, and seem to draw on design influences like skeletons and blood cells, also linking the audience to their bodies and human instincts.This act takes us on a journey from the womb out into a world that can be threatening and nightmarish, then finally to a ritualistic hunt and kill out in the wild. There is heavy use of puppets throughout, which allows the dancers to at times be either characters themselves, puppeteers, living backdrops, or any combination of the three. There is some fun use of mask in this part of the show as well.
Act 2 begins with a very sharp contrast to Act 1: we see the dancers’ faces! It’s not that we don’t see them in Act 1, but there is so much puppetry and mask work that the faces in Act 2 come as a bit of a pleasant shock — especially since the first part of this act is a slowed-down exploration of faces and hands that features some fabulous tableaux and lots of humour. While the first act feels like a page out of the book of early man, the second is much more contemporary and brings us to a time reminiscent of the French Belle Époque at the turn of the twentieth century. Though the costumes are suddenly cravats and corsets, and the tribal drumming is replaced by much more melodic tunes on a xylophone, there is still a dark, primal, and often carnal feel to the whole thing. The rituals of humans past perhaps haven’t changed so much in the modern age, but merely have more pageantry to them. Throughout the act the dancers indulge in the exuberant excesses of a ravenous feast, a little dirty dancing, and perhaps even an orgy. Some fabulous puppetry takes place as well including a charming number that features dancing dinner napkins, plus a surprise visit from an old friend from Act 1. As the whole dinner party descends into madness, the audience begins to hear the familiar sound of the drums.
Mimic is a fabulous show – the dancing and choreography are as good as it gets, and the journey on which the dancers and puppets take the audience really seizes the imagination and is downright fun. We’re so lucky to have the artistic powerhouses that are DJD and The Old Trouts right here in Calgary, and to have them team up is such a delight. Definitely check it out if you have the chance!
Mimic by Decidedly Jazz Danceworks runs until May 5 at the DJD Dance Centre, and tickets are available at www.decidedlyjazz.com.
Christine Armstrong is an arts enthusiast who has spent her career in the arts sector as a community-builder, program coordinator, educator, researcher, publicist, strategist, general manager, fundraiser, and more! She’s currently keeping busy raising her two kids and sitting on the board of the National Arts Centre Foundation.