Molly Gray/ Vancouver Arts Review, December 6, 2017
“In the knowledge sharing, jargon pillaging world of the internet, different disciplines often reference one another. But even by today’s standards of cross-pollination, blending Quantum theory with dance is novel. Not to be deterred by a little impenetrably complex scientific theory, in “Spooky Action Phase One”, Lesley Telford and Inverso use quantum physics as their conceptual seed. The premise that so intrigued them was the discovery that on a quantum level, particles not physically connected could exert influence on one another. For the creative team this theory sparked further existential examination, how can one soul influence another? Are human lives inexplicably linked beyond physical connections?
The resultant performance was just as intriguing as the premise. The piece was beautifully choreographed and gracefully executed. The ebb and flow of energy from one dancer to another was tantalising. The connectivity of the dancers was not exhibited through straight mimicry or synchronisation but something subtler. Motifs of movement passed from one dancer to another, syncopated, evolving with the quirks and individuality of each new recipient. An estranged shadow of the original movement echoed through the performance. Some of the most powerful moments were when the dancers moved as a conglomerate, with energy rippling from one dancer to the next, a congealed undulating throng.”
Naomi Brand/ The Dance Current, May 16, 2017
“It’s no easy task to communicate specific ideas through contemporary dance. It can be tricky to make the abstract movement of Gumby-like bodies live up to the lofty themes in a choreographer’s imagination. Luckily, in Lesley Telford’s latest creation, she has chosen both her topic and her collaborators well.
…The piece is an interdisciplinary collaboration with poet Barbara Adler, who sets up the work by comically explaining the phenomenon of quantum entanglement to the audience (with the help of Wikipedia, of course) and then clarifies that the piece is, in fact, not about physics at all but inspired by it. …Adler’s introduction, combined with her beautifully handcrafted, tiny books of poetry (distributed to the audience during intermission), preps the audience by situating us in a world that is equal parts poetry and science. The miniature books are printed on graph paper and, while they are not detailed to the level of the particle, they draw my focus to imagery held in the recesses of memories from high school science class. This metaphor of the experiment, with both known and unknown elements, did well to place the audience in our role as observers of the microscopic.
…Ultimately, it’s a work about relationships – how things (human or other) interact, organize and coexist. The dancers portrayed these concepts not in a literal ways but through poetic imagery supported by a distinctive lighting design by Kyla Gardiner. At one point the dancers group together, orbiting a series of lights radiating outward from a single nucleus in a complex geometric pattern projected onto the white floor. Later, one dancer again orbits another, who is engaged in a sequence of expansive movement, one acting as the observed particle to another. Throughout the work, relationships of connection and influence are seen (and heard), and near the end the metaphorical thread that connects us all is made visible when an elastic is pulled across the stage. Dancers then moved over, under and around, entangling themselves in the line that divided the space left to right.
There are elements of Telford’s dance vocabulary that offer familiar and hints of her influence, such as Crystal Pite and Nederlands Dans Theater. But in this work her musical phrasing is the most arresting element. The movements are strung together with rhythmic diversity, punctuated acutely with the consideration of a composer or a beat poet. The performers …are fiercely talented dancers and their elastic bodies exhibit a remarkable ability to shift swiftly between qualities and initiation points.
The objective vantage point of the piece’s scientific inspiration paired well with the humanity and sensitivity of Adler’s poetry and her live delivery from offstage. Her voice was familiar and friendly in contrast to the highly technical and virtuosic, though unaffected dancing.”
The Georgia Straight/ by Janet Smith on April 19th, 2017 at 12:56 PM
One of the clearest definitions of quantum entanglement—a phenomenon Albert Einstein dubbed “spooky action at a distance”—can be found in a vampire movie.
In Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive Tom Hiddleston’s depressed rock-star bloodsucker explains it this way to Tilda Swinton’s Eve, his centuries-long partner: “When you separate an entwined particle and you move both parts away from the other, even at opposite ends of the universe, if you alter or affect one, the other will be identically altered or affected.”
In fact, it was by watching the dark love story that Vancouver dance artist Lesley Telford learned about quantum entanglement—in which particles are so closely connected that they cannot act independently of one another, no matter how much space lies between them. She became fascinated not just with the scientific possibilities of the concept but with the romantic ones. It’s an idea she explores in a new work, named—what else?--Spooky Action at a Distance.
“I thought, ‘What a great metaphor,’ ” the choreographer tells the Straight over sushi before heading into a Dance Centre studio. “It’s the idea of quantum entanglement and how that could relate to human entanglement.…It’s really a metaphor for human interactions.”
First, though, as is so often the case with Telford, she needed to form those ideas into words. So she approached poet Barbara Adler to talk about the phenomenon, and then to have her build poetry around it—text that the writer will perform live in Telford’s first full evening of work here.
“Barbara talked a lot about how you feel this resonance with people that have been in your life, and how it’s tied into romantic connections and love stories,” Telford explains. “As we dig into it, it’s become less about that and more of an underlying vibration in the work; it feels like we’ve gone beyond that starting point.…I feel like she has a way of making it so down-to-earth and it’s given us so much food to work with. Are we in control of the universe or is it in control of us?”
Spooky Action at a Distance, a work for seven dancers, ends up being a string of duets that weave—entangle—into other duets. Under the banner of her company, Inverso, it joins two other pieces on a solo program called Three Sets/Relating at a Distance that features poetry-driven works. Telford, an alumna of Nederlands Dans Theater and Madrid’s Compañía Nacional de Danza, has now returned to her hometown and is in the midst of an artist’s residency at the Dance Centre. She is already in demand here: along with this solo evening, she’s just coming off a creation at Ballet BC for its Program 2, and she’s done choreography for Pi Theatre’s remount of the play Long Division.
In the duet My tongue, your ear, she plays Nico Muhly’s haunting, angular viola piece Etude 1A off excerpts of Polish poet Wisława Szymborska’s ironic portrayal of parting, “The Tower of Babel”, and If is a trio that features an Anne Carson poem. In Spooky Action, it was Adler who really anchored her ideas and helped her grab onto an intangible concept, Telford says. But in the other two short pieces, poetry was the impetus for her explorations. “The danger in dance is it becomes so studied; it can square off into music,” Telford explains of her love of using poetry, “so those rhythms [of speech] really sparked ideas about how we access movement.”
Non-physics majors in the audience will be relieved to hear that in Spooky Action, as in the other two works that show Telford’s range of creation over the past decade, it’s not required to fully comprehend the complex concepts that inspire her choreography. It can be simply enough to enjoy innovative choreography that feels like it’s grounded in something deep, intricate, meaningful, and sometimes a bit strange. “I kind of hope that people don’t feel it’s necessary to understand it all,” says Telford. “It just helps me find a reason to make movement.”
Lesley Telford’s Three Sets/Relating at a Distance is at the Scotiabank Dance Centre from Thursday to Saturday (April 20 to 22).