Culture Rover

#123 - Urban Studies

When out in Vancouver this past summer, Culture Rover had a chance to follow the neon-green-wigged dancers in the Siren Song Dance Company as they performed a site-specific piece across the city's neighborhoods.

City:Skinned had a group of fifteen-or-so audience members stuff ear plugs in and watch art and life intersect. We began in the skid row neighborhood by the railroad tracks, where prostitutes and junkies watched us watching the dancers (this being Canada, there were also plenty of health services among the boarded-up wood-frame houses and abandoned manufacturing lofts). Dancers leapt along the roof of a building in the distance, their silhouettes against the harbor and the sunset. We entered an old funeral home, and headed back out on the streets.

Siren Song then took us along the very line between gentrification and poverty, a street between Gastown and skid row where on one side stood a dilapidated house and on the other towered a new condominium. Yuppies on a balcony shouted unfunny comments at us.

We made our way past art galleries and homeless beggars to a courtyard in Chinatown, then boarded a bus out to Stanley Park, where, along the way, the city's population took on aesthetic beauty. That couple kissing on the corner: part of the performance? That strange sign for new condos and a fish restaurant: part of the set? The beams of moonlight streaming over those mountains across the bay: were they dancing too?

In the park, the dancers crumpled up into a huge Douglas fir tree, as if they were melting back into the natural materials from whence the city came. The performance ended and the crickets chirped.

20 November 2006

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