While I have probably been exposed to more theatre and performance art than the average person, I was today many years old when I discovered that modern dance clowning was a thing. KNOWN by Jennifer Dallas merges sophisticated choreography, physical comedy, and Commedia dell’arte character studies into a unique, spirit-lifting performance art experience.
KNOWN is best enjoyed by not overthinking it. The piece makes effective use of a variety of movement techniques, including mime, but the gestures do not act out a linear story. As an analytical person, my first instinct was to search for “meaning” but I enjoyed the performance much more once I let go of that and allowed the feelings being expressed moment to moment to wash over me.
The costumes were one of the greatest strengths of the production in my view. Each of the six performer’s attire created a unique and colourful persona, in some cases with references to the performer’s ethnicity. Multicoloured layered skirts, plumed and sequined headdresses, a fuzzy pants suit, and diverse textile textures brought joy, frivolity, and whimsy to the stage and were instrumental in bringing the piece to life.
The choreography was also superb. The movements used on stage were a sophisticated and playful blend of lithe, graceful athleticism and slapstick silliness. Each performer’s choreography reflected a unique and distinct persona, ranging from a vaudeville-style drunk to an ecstatic whirling dervish. The audience is seated on the same level as the performance space, blurring the fourth wall and facilitating some very cute interactions with the audience, including the sharing of an orange.
The production makes highly effective use of cost-effective props and lighting to create several spectacular moments of stage magic. Keep your eyes peeled for a delightful scene with tinsel and an unexpected silvery curtain drop.
The closing scene sets a very contrasting final beat for this piece, concluding on a much more somber, reflective scene. The performers return to the stage in varied black and red costumes and sing along to a repeated, highly textured operatic passage.
On the whole very creative and unexpected. KNOWN is a charming opportunity for exposure to an undiscovered fusion of two art forms, clowning and dance, which clearly has great potential.
- KNOWN is playing until January 18, 2020 at IGAC Studio 103, Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street)
- Showtimes are 8 PM on January 9 to 18, 2020.
- Tickets prices range from $20-25.
- Tickets are available online.
Photo of company by Melanie Gordon