The 2015/2016 season of TACTICS opens with two performance pieces about important contemporary issues: (off) Balance by Naomi Tessler tackles mental health problems while Amelia Griffin’s feelers addresses gender relations. Both are semi-autobiographical shows presented with honesty, grace, and charm.
In (off) Balance, Tessler takes us from her dark days in high school through transitioning to university, being diagnosed with depression, treating it medically, and finally landing upon her own treatment: a combination of reiki, art, and spirituality. While taking control of your body, trusting in your own gifts, and following your heart are nice messages, they’re not necessarily applicable to everyone facing mood disorders. I ultimately found the message behind (off) Balance confusing and disturbing.
As a show about mental health, it left something to be desired but as a dramatization of one person’s story, it was good. I liked the structure of Naomi’s storytelling quite a bit: the ending of the show spoke elegantly to the beginning and wrapped up the core themes nicely. The exaggerated portrayal of family members and health care practitioners was fun to watch and kept me engaged. The writing, acting, music, and strong movement-based choices in this piece complemented each other well too.
Meanwhile, feelers was a tremendously strong show that combined phenomenal dancing with an important message. The show offered a thought-provoking, and incredibly relevant look at everyday sexism and harassment without being preachy, whiny, or overly political. It was entertaining, impressive, and enjoyable throughout.
Amber Green, Alya Graham, and Annabel Boissonneault took the stage initially as women heading home feeling scared, victimized, or anxious. This first scene ends with a provocative staging of sexual assault that was as powerful as it was uncomfortable.
The show continued with these women choosing what to wear for a night out while sharing funny but disturbing anecdotes about their own experiences and those of their friends. Stories were shared in both French and English, spanning everything from being objectified by strangers to being preyed on by a now-incarcerated molester.
What I loved most about feelers was the introduction of Simon ‘Klassic’ Xavier in the second half of the show. He brought a new dance style to the stage and offered a man’s perspective, which really showed the complexity of our shared realities. What’s happening on the street is about more than power: it’s about how we define gender. This is a must-see for any fan of contemporary dance.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Do you have experiences with mental health issues? Did (off) Balance inspire or scare you? What about sexual harassment or assault? Did feelers trigger strong emotions or leave you feeling cold? Join the discussion in the comments below.
(off) Balance and feelers are presented as part of the Theatre Artists’ Co-operative: the Independent Collective Series. They runs now through November 21st at Arts Court. Visit their online box office for show times and how to buy tickets.