by Evelyn Reid, About.com
”Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others? That’s who we are! We’re not who we say we are, we’re not who we want to be — we are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
I finally had a chance to watch a full run-through of Empirical Quotient during Week 11 of rehearsals, just days before RUBBERBANDance Group premieres the show worldwide November 20, 2013, in Montreal at Place des Arts.
Amazing what two months of practice between six carefully curated dancers can do to change perceptions. When I first saw the troupe rehearse bits and pieces of Victor Quijada’s latest choreography in Week 2 of creation, I found myself looking for Empirical Quotient‘s story. By Week 11, I let go of trying to assign a logical, linear explanation to my observations because I realized a key, crucial detail. There is none.
In Week 2, I thought a love story, however impressionistic, was in the making. But when I saw the full rehearsal in Week 11, I shifted gears. Within the first ten minutes and then again halfway through, I was convinced Empirical Quotient was a deconstructed opera featuring a godhead toying with her minions. That might have something to do with collaborator Jasper “Lil’ Jaz” Gahunia’s eerie score, my favorite one from him yet, in part due to the DJ/composer’s incorporation of voice, a first for Gahunia in the context of his longstanding collaboration with the troupe.
Then I waxed poetic over the various pas de deux and trois and quatre, possibly representing an exploration of North America’s relationship zeitgeist-du-jour, the polyamorous lifestyle. That first-degree analysis lasted all of another ten minutes, replaced by a more elementary interpretation, that of ”amoebas flirting in a pile of primordial goo,” according to my notes.
A gentleman present for the rehearsal, Seattle-based dancer Matt Drews, shared with me that what he saw was a woman freeing herself of an abusive relationship. I saw it too, once he spelled it out. A few thoughts and two pages of my chicken-scratchings later, I saw something else, an anthropomorphic ”reenactment of the Big Bang followed by the Big Crunch.” After running all of this by Victor, who seemed delighted by my confusion, I shifted gears yet again, struggling to figure out who was the electron and who was the proton in what just had to be a post-contemporary ballet breakdance theatrical interpretation of the everyday atom. Science! Dance! Why not? It’s in the title…
So to spare you yet another stream of consciousness, I’m just gonna come out and say it.
I don’t know what Empirical Quotient is about. Or maybe I do? Armed with a Cheshire cat smile, Victor wouldn’t say if I was close to or completely off the mark. Besides, according to him, there is no story per se. But there are themes. Identity. Nostalgia. Regret.
And emotion. The experience of watching Victor’s handpicked team interpret his unique dance language is a visceral one, with images still haunting me of Empirical Quotient‘s Katherine Cowie pounding her heart as she writhes on the ground, reaching out to Lea Ved, who watches her spasms with concern and yet brutal detachment, moving on to make way for a moment with Lavinia Vago. And seeing the trio of Empirical Quotient‘s leading men – Franklin Luy, James Gregg, Zachary Tang – grapple with each other so explosively, it’s never entirely clear if they’re collaborating or fighting. Are they friends? Or foes?
The one thing that is clear to me is that every action in Empirical Quotient leads to a reaction. A fall leads to a catch. A swipe leads to a block. Even a simple finger point creates an invisible ripple of movement in space that impacts whomever happens to be in its path.
In Empirical Quotient, everyone is affected by everyone. And from my humble observations, there’s no way around it.