Imprint: A Disciplined and Inventive Dreamscape


Victoria: To speak in first person for a moment, I’d like to think I saw Imprint the way most of its audience will: without the knowledge of dance to appreciate it formally or the vocabulary to talk about it accurately. Despite my handicaps, however, Imprint was nothing short of spellbinding.

The elements of James Boatman’s natural, percussive original score trickle about the audience as they take their seats. As the lights fade to black for the opening monologue, the birdsong, buzzing insects and knocking wood subtly organize themselves into a more regular beat. The organic character of the sounds never quite disappears, since the music stays very minimalistic. Rhythm dominates, laying a steady pace with sudden flourishes. As the piece progresses, the instrumentation changes from birds and bees to clocks and leaky faucets, then to a discordant whirr of machinery mixed with anxious strings.
Lighting is diverse unlike anything a realistic show could handle. After some poetry in pitch-blackness, the first steps take place in the dimmest of glows. This quickly evolves to a strong, warm light spilling from stage right, casting dancers Lisa Milloy and Leah Wickes in harsh shadows. As the soundtrack undergoes its industrial revolution, the lights cool off to patterned blues and purples.

At the centre of all this, naturally, are Milloy, Wickes and their talented steps. The first stretch of the show was, to this untrained eye, a catlike blend of ballet and kung-fu. Both women are equally deft with spiraling through the air as with prowling across the floor. Then the really interesting moves begin. Much of the choreography demands cooperation. Curious about how one might do a backwards somersault to a cross-legged sit from lying on top of someone’s back? Milloy and Wickes demonstrate. The two swing one another across stage, lift each other into the air with their feet and otherwise free themselves from gravity’s typical restraints.

When not dazzling the audience with these feats, Milloy and Wickes pluck invisible silkworms from oak trees, lounge in the sun, drive through rush hour traffic and recall seemingly long lost childhood friends. As the lights and sounds evolve and snippets of poetry and monologue set the scene, so too do the dance steps evolve. As their accompaniment grows more panicked and mechanical, the sinuous steps of the silkworm hunt acquire nervous tics, sudden jerks and wilder spins. The harmony of the whole performance never falters, though. This is perhaps most impressive of all.

What other dancers and their professional critics have to say about Imprint, I neither know nor particularly care. The novelty and talent of the show was enough to win my applause. You simply won’t see anything else like it at the 2009 Victoria Fringe- even among other dance shows. Audience members who saw Pretty Little Instincts at the Point Ellis House the night before said the shows were almost black and white to one another. Be sure to finish a night of Fringing with Imprint’s subtle, nearly unspoken charms.

For more show information go here.

By Christopher Felling