This psychedelic dance show is a trip for the senses

Montreal choreographer Kim-Sanh Châu on Kaléidoscope, this weekend c/o Tangente Danse.

Melina Stinson. Photo by Simran Dewan

February is the kind of month when you’d be forgiven for taking a little break from reality, alongside all the snowbirds flying south, Scandinavians hitting the spa and groundhogs retreating back to their burrows until winter is finished.

Montrealers seeking to treat themselves to a dreamy, out-of-the-ordinary and highly ‘grammable experience this month without even leaving town only have to look as far as Edifice Wilder, where Tangente Danse will be presenting a program called Technologies of Contemplation from Feb. 8–11, featuring an innovative new work by Montreal-based choreographer Kim-Sanh Châu called Kaléidoscope.

“It’s kind of like science fiction,” Châu says about the performance, mentioning works by film directors Yorgos Lanthimos, Jonathan Glazer and the late Henri George Clouzot as thematic influences across her body of work. “We’re creating a space and time that’s not real, but it’s not very far away from reality.”

The tranquil, hazy and psychedelic show combines fluid moves by dancers Ariane Dessaulles and Melina Stinson with a languid live score by collaborators Chittakone Baccam (Hazy Montagne Mystique) and Michel F. Côté plus live video feedback from Guillaume Vallée and lighting accents by Jon Cleveland.

Bringing the show to a new level of experience for the audience is the element of viewing the performers, video and lights through two different types of kaleidoscopic glasses — the kind you might see at a rave — distributed to the audience on their way in. The refraction of light through the specialized lenses give the viewer a sense of multiplicity and distorted surreality, adding to the dreamlike atmosphere of the work.

“I chose these glasses because they multiply the images in a fractal way,” explains Châu. “I worked with that idea for a long time with dancing, but was using video projection, which was always a big technical installation that took a lot of space compared to the dance work. I really like the physicality of the glasses—you can take them off and on as you’re looking.”

Kaléidoscope is the result of several years of development spanning across the globe as Châu worked with a team of dancers during a residency in Vietnam before continuing the project through local residencies with OFFTA, la Serre and Espace Marie Chouinard. Later this year, Châu and her team will bring Kaléidoscope to audiences in Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur.

“We started to work a lot with geometric body patterns, which worked very well with the glasses,” Châu recalls. “Then slowly it moved to something much more organic. For me this piece translates in a material way what I feel in the back of my head. The colour is very important — I have strong synesthesia, especially with musical shape.”

With the enhanced experience of contemplating the performance elements through tinted and clear kaleidoscope glasses, audience members can interact with the performance in new and unique ways, experiencing shapes and hues beyond what the naked eye can conjure alone. Châu’s hope is for the audience to enjoy playing with the work as it unfolds, by exchanging glasses for new perspectives, capturing trippy photos of the dancers through the lenses, or just enjoying a brief respite from the harshness of the outside world.

“It doesn’t have to be reality,” laughs Châu. “This piece is very peaceful. It’s a little trippy, but not too much. You can sit on cushions, we’ll have bean bags and blankets. You can nap — but not for too long!” 

Kim-Sanh Châu’s Kaléidoscope will be presented as part of Tangente Danse’s Technologies of Contemplation double-bill alongside Sarah Bronsard and Patrick Saint-Denis’s Èbe from Feb. 8–11 at Edifice Wilder (1435 Bleury), 7:30 p.m. Thurs–Sat, 4 p.m. Sun, $18.05–$25.67