Review: The Art of Stealing
It’s dark, it’s gritty – it’s a reflection of a world no one wants to know. The Art of Stealing from local contemporary dance company the response, presented at the Firehall Arts Centre, is an experience that will leave you looking over your shoulder on your walk home, and triple checking your door to make sure it’s locked tight.
Founded by Vancouver dance darling Amber Funk Barton, the response is regarded for it’s explosive, vibrant choreography infused with dynamic flavourings of urban dance and culture – a reputation that The Art of Stealing gloriously upheld to the delight of last night’s audience.
A world of post-apocalyptic horror, this hour-long performance takes spectators on a rollercoaster journey where six survivors work both together and against each other to navigate their foreign world. This exploration of what we take from each other, both physically and emotionally, was paled in comparison to the ultimate thief to us all: death.
Right from the get-go, Barton transports her audience to her new and dangerous world though a disorientating re-configuration of the Firehall Arts Centre’s theatre, a clever manoeuvre that’s further intensified through effective lighting design. With seating arranged so that audience members face each other on either side of the centre stage space, you’re left with the eerie feeling that there’s always someone watching you, a sensation intensified by the dancers in moments of piercing eye contact with the audience – you may be watching them, but they’re also watching you.
Effective costuming also added to the otherworldly effect. In a collaboration with Lululemon labs – the first alliance of its kind for a Vancouver arts group – the dancers wore an assortment of garments each different from the next, giving the impression that they stole their clothing right off of someone’s back.
It’s evident that Barton has a strong understanding of balance in her choreography – moments of partnering are intricately weighed against delicate formational patterns, syncopated group work, and movements executed in perfect synchronization. The resulting effect is a living and ever-changing entity, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats every – very dangerous – step of the way.