It may be that interesting choreography just doesn't cut it in contemporary dance anymore. Culture critics say it'll take that plus a whole lot more to get the MTV-watching, Internet-surfing "next" generation into theaters. And that's exactly what The Holy Body Tattoo is doing.
Vancouver-based dancer/choreographers Noam Gagnon and Dana Gringas formed The Holy Body Tattoo with Jean-Yves Theriault, co-founder of the acclaimed '80s Canadian rock group Voivod. So from the beginning HBT performances were infused with hard-driving, techno-industrial rock music -- a show in itself, played at rock concert levels. Their 1994 creation, Poetry and Apocalypse, toured Europe to rave reviews and packed houses.
For their current American tour, HBT has upped the ante again, teaming with music video director and filmmaker William Morrison (Skinny Puppy, Gwar) and best-selling sci-fi author William Gibson (Neuromancer). Scraps of text appear intermittently between rapid-fire images of the dancers' bodies -- and this is all in addition to the choreography, which, by the way, doesn't suffer for all the hubbub.
Gringas and Gagnon have created a piece that pushes the limits of working in a horizontal space as opposed to a vertical one. They move close to the floor, aggressively rolling, flipping and spinning in pushup positions, on their knees, and even lying down. When they hit the ground, they hit it hard -- whether it's with a hand, a head or a full body.
But perhaps more impressive than the simple fact of HBT's multimedia experimentation is the way they unify different forms into a cohesive performance with a prevailing idea. In the case of our brief eternity, HBT tackles the concept of progress with a capital P. Words like "prosthetic utopia" flash on the screen as the dancers visibly struggle through grueling and repetitive steps to a soundtrack of mechanical noises. When, in the end, the choreography finally lets the dancers up off the floor, they are a testimonial to the resilience of the human spirit.