- GET INVOLVED
March 30, 2012 - 12:00am - March 31, 2012 - 12:00am
Does anybody out there remember being in their teens, tripping on acid and listening to Pink Floyd? More specifically, track three on side three of Ummagumma: “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict”?
At the time, I thought that track was, dare I say, awesome. And I mean awesome in the majestic-peering-into-the-Grand-Canyon sense of the word, rather than the every-fifth-utterance-of-a-soccer-mom version. And that’s how I felt Friday night when I watched Lief Hall and her backup trio of witchy sonic sorceresses do their thing on a wildly imagined stage at VIVO Media Arts Centre.
Said stage itself was the de-facto fifth member of the performance. Draped in enough white paper snowflake cutouts to give a classroom of third graders scissor-hand tendonitis, this pulpy domicile was lit with lasers and strobe lights, littered with twigs frosted white to match. And this place was about to become a playground for the ritualistic incantations of Lief Hall and her acolytes.
The ritual, not unlike a scene from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 psychedelic film The Holy Mountain, began with simple aspirations, breathed by Hall into a headset, looped through a well-organized set of effects pedals, and picked up by high-sensitivity stage mics. Hall took to the stage, knelt down with reverence as her breath became a rhythm, tweaked to infinity, only to be buried beneath layers of another and the next.
Her coven joined her on stage. All decked out in highly reflective whites to catch the lights; linking and contorting their bodies, they pranced lithely through the space. They were Larissa Loyva, Kelly Davis and Shiva Shahmir (one of whom sported the sharpest Spock hairdo I’ve seen in decades).
As the procession took the stage, Hall again fell to the floor, covering her face, modulating her effects, primal-screaming. Together the dancers sang a chorus, their wind swelling into the gaping chasm of the audience. Lights strobed and lasers flickered green photonic tongues. These priestesses wove their sonic body magic before a congregation of dropped jaws and camera clicks. These women moved their bodies with fluidity behind the draping paper set piece, their dresses adorned with bones and hollow driftwood, all bleached or painted immaculate white.
The dancers built Hall a structure of branches, not unlike the magic shelter built by Justine (Kirsten Dunst) for her nephew as the world ends in Lars Von Trier’s recent film Melancholia. “We build it higher,” they chanted absently, as if drugged. Hall crouched beneath the branches and chattered like a woodland creature, at which point the Ummagummareference sprang to mind.
But was this spiraling ritual of a psychedelic or religious nature?
And in the end there was silence. The audience teetered on edge for a moment, and then it was lights, cameras, vacuum! The air was sucked from the room with cheers and applause.
(By the way, if you listen to the aforementioned Pink Floyd track at half speed, there is a hidden message at 4 minutes 32 seconds, which is Roger Waters saying, “That was pretty avant-garde, wasn’t it?”)