Tiffany Tregarthen and Elya Grant in Bygones. Photo by Alistair Maitland.

The Dance Centre, Vancouver – December 11, 2019

Bygones takes the audience into a tumultuous world of eerie, contorted realities. The piece is choreographed by co-directors of Out Innerspace Dance Theatre, Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond, in collaboration with the three other dancers who performed the piece – Elya Grant, Renée Sigouin and David Harvey. It began with Tregarthen sitting in a chair downstage right, reading a book, with a desk, a cup, a lamp and a potted plant. This benign scene quickly descended into an inexplicable chaos that propelled most of the piece. 

The dramatic lighting, designed by James Proudfoot, and video design by Eric Chad, and deceptive smoke effects, transformed the dark cavern of the stage into mysterious realms at whim and created ephemeral spaces and shadows from which dancers escaped and emerged. In one visually stunning scene, a blade of light sliced diagonally across the stage, creating a smoky barrier through which hands frantically prodded and retracted to the staccato rhythm of the soundscape. Sound design by Kate De Lorme enveloped the theatre in almost oppressive hums like an aircraft engine or grinding machinery. 

These effects created a space in which dancers succumbed to and seemed to be tormented by visible and imaginary forces. In duets, dancers’ opposing momentum entangled them in a spiralling discourse of lifts and lunges that travelled all around the stage. In solos, dancers seemed tormented by their own psyche – contorting their spines, swerving their heads and jutting out their elbows and ankles to grapple with their demons. Tregarthen and Raymond’s performances were captivating, capturing a complex range and depth of the human struggle.

Everyday objects took on a life of their own – such as an umbrella closing onto a dancer’s head like a Venus flytrap. The objects from the opening scene reappeared several times, and were tethered by string and pulled by stagehands, creating illusions of a world unhinged from logic. 

While such effects created arresting imagery, the piece struggled with momentum midway through and seemed to stall in a delirious abyss, as scene after scene portrayed similar tones. Near the end, the piece lifted into a conscious conclusion when all five dancers appeared together and moved with a sense of collaboration and personal agency, supporting, rather than opposing one another in movement. 

Bygones is an intriguing journey and a precious opportunity to delve into Tregarthen and Raymond’s imaginative world.