December 2014 – Mark Mann Response #2 to Scars are All the Rage Rehearsal

Choreographer: Marie France Forcier/ Interpreters: Justine Comfort, Molly Johnson, Louis Laberge-Côté/ Location: hub 14, Toronto

I’m going to wander around a bit here with this response and not worry too much where I step. It’s the only way I know to get in. The funny thing about being a writer, for me, is that I sometimes think I have the least faith in words of anybody. They don’t seem all that needful, or ever really true enough. The body never lies though, right?

My body was wincing at your rehearsal on Monday, and making little sounds of shock and denial, and I think I even put my hand in my mouth. I don’t think it’s too strong to say that this piece is terrifying. I mean: it’s going to fuck people up. I’m glad you’ve decided to go all the way into it, and honestly you can’t be serious and then gesture vaguely at this material. It has to be full-on. I’ve been craving scarier performances, more uncomfortable, and this delivers. But, like, shit.

In Tracey’s piece, the energy passes between the dancers through their eyes. In yours, the power transmits through the hands–Your dancers have to let their eyes die in order to perform this work. I love watching hands; they’re like little people. They get nervous and talk too much. They hold onto each other. They can’t keep secrets. My sister spent a summer dissecting human bodies, and she said cutting hands was worse than cutting faces. But our wonderful, charming hands also carry the terrible burden of fulfilling our desires. We have to touch. Maybe some poets would feel things with their wrists, but most of us need our fingers to do the work. And so our hands are cursed to become awful, squirming, grasping, pinching little beasts.

And worse than that too, they become demons. Your piece explores possession. The hands entrance and capture, grasp and hold. Justine’s face caught in Louis’s grip is an image that will stick in my mind. Have you ever held a kitten in your hands and felt a thrill of destruction? Or when you like someone so much you just want to smash them, because they’re so fucking cute. (Like that scene in Punch Drunk Love, c’mon, I’m not crazy.) Well, we’ve all got that howl of power in us, lurking in our love. “The trilling wire in the blood,” Eliot wrote. I used to think I knew what evil was, because I saw the devil smiling in my mind too many times when I was young and high on religion or full of drugs. But that was just fear. Now I think the dark side is a normal part of us that sometimes gets broken off, and, feeling abandoned or alone, goes away to do things on its own.

I saw a gesture at that idea of fragmentation in the transition that Louis and Molly undergo before they become fixated on Justine. There’s a period before they inhabit the abuse when their movements are shaky and disjointed. They quaver drunkenly, disoriented, like the air above a fire. At that point they’re still multiples of themselves, carrying at least some of the confusing complexity and mixed feelings, making them spin. It’s hard work to shed all that perspective and find a single-minded focus for desire. But they do, as many of our sad species do. What happens when they get there is definitely worth looking at, and your exploration of it so far is pretty fearless. But what happens when you come back from there? When you re-integrate the parts of you that need to empathize in order to survive? Is it even possible? Abuse and trauma are a nightmare, but at least they’re coherent, because the world they belong to is so limited. The real horror is returning. Trying to make sense again.