This is how graceful dudes dance

Choreographer Sasha Kleinplatz talks about Chorus II, prayer-inspired movements for male dancers with live music by Radwan Ghazi Moumned.

Chorus II at the MAI is choreographed by Sasha Kleinplatz, with prayer-inspired movements for male dancers and live music by Radwan Ghazi Moumned

“I started in a place. I took a really long route, but now I’m back where I started — but in a good way,” says choreographer Sasha Kleinplatz, referring to her new group work, Chorus II. At some points along the route, “the dancers were singing Lou Reid and Whitney Houston, but it’s really come back to prayer, longing and trying to connect with something bigger than you. I feel like coming full circle has been a really healthy thing for the work.”

When Sasha Kleinplatz was brainstorming for her new piece, she says, she recalled specific images from her youth. “I was thinking about my grandfather and childhood memories of him praying when at the supper table at Shabbat. When he used to pray, he would sway innately, a slight imperceptible front and back swaying, and his voice would change. I was remembering how when he would pray, there was a tenderness. So I was having that memory and I knew I wanted to work with men. So I put those two ideas together.”

Chorus II MAI Sasha KleinplatzRadwan Ghazi Moumned
Chorus II at the MAI is choreographed by Sasha Kleinplatz, with prayer-inspired movements for male dancers and live music by Radwan Ghazi Moumned

Taking the intimate swaying action known as davening during prayer as inspiration,  Kleinplatz weaves the ideas of ritual, spirituality and connection into this highly physical, yet emotional, sextet. The piece was largely created through improvisations with dancers Benjamin Kamino, Milan Panet-Gigon, Simon Portigal, Lael Stellick, Nathan Yaffe and Frédéric Wiper, and will be performed to live music by multi-instrumentalist Radwan Ghazi Moumned (Jerusalem in my Heart).

During the creative process, Kleinpltaz used a series of  “simple but intense” exercises to transport the dancers to another state; one of them required them to shake for an hour and then infuse one’s breath with the shaking. “The exercises got us into a mindframe outside of our day-to-day life, and into a vulnerable place,” she explains.

Sasha Kleinplatz, along with Andrew Tay, is a co-founder of the dynamic Wants & Needs Danse duo that is behind the summer contemporary dance event Piss in the Pool. Chorus II had its beginnings at the 2011 edition at the Bain Mathieu, where viewers often stroll poolside, looking down at the dancers. Keeping this particular viewpoint in mind, Kleinplatz completely reconfigured the MAI (Montréal, arts intercultural) to echo the deep-end environment in which the work was conceived. “The audience is looking down on something that is happening, something intimate where the dancers are in their own universe.” ■

Chorus II, choreographed by Sasha Kleinplatz, runs from April 18-20, at MAI (3680 Jeanne-Mance), 8 p.m., $22-$14. The matinée performance Sunday April 21, 3 p.m., offers free admission to youth sixteen and under. MAI website.

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