Habitat

The thing on the floor as you walk into Dance Base’s Studio One – this year under the Assembly umbrella – is not paper. You might think it is, but it’s definitely not. It’s a sculpture, a costume, and a piece of art that comes to uncanny life in motion.

An oasis of sound, shape, and colour

Uruguayan-Canadian dancer and choreographer Bettina Szabo is alone on stage – a captivating presence – but as she describes in the post-show speech, Habitat is a profoundly collaborative work. Her costume, semi-wearable sculptural scene-partner, lighting, and sound shape and define the performance in deep and inextricable ways. The designers make use of everything the studio has to offer, from a deep and genuine black out to surround sound speakers, to spectacular effect.

Szabo is clearly an incredible dancer, but few of her movements during this performance read as “dance.” They are too creaturely, too close to the hermit crab described in the show’s blurb. If the metaphor to her experience of migration remained opaque to me, I certainly didn’t mind – just watching her, lit very closely in otherwise total darkness – was more than enough. Her face was only visible for a few brief moments. Her strength was used only to serve the performance; her commitment was total.

The sound design added immeasurably to the immersion. Szabo wore a microphone that added her breathing to the mix, tying the music and scuttling crab noises even closer to the performance. It was genuinely unclear to me to what degree certain sounds came from her or the sculpture she manipulated, from effects applied to those sounds, or from pre-recorded material; a sure sign of an expert design.

The sonic impact heightened the visual impact, and the two together kept me watching and listening incredibly closely right through the 45-minute run time, to the point that it felt like meditation. If you want an oasis of sound, shape, and colour in the midst of the busy festival, Habitat would be the perfect destination.

Visit Show Website

Reviews by Alex Bailey Dillon

Assembly @ Dance Base

Habitat

★★★★★
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Since you’re here…

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Mama Biashara
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Habitat is a multidisciplinary solo inspired by the life cycle of hermit crabs; a metaphor about my process of emigration to Canada. Hermit crabs don't have a shell, instead they house themselves in objects according to their size. As they grow, their object becomes limiting and uncomfortable, so they migrate new ones. This multidisciplinary piece combines movement, voice with live electronics, a paper sculpture Hermes (600 articulable paper cones), and lighting. This show has been programmed by Dance Base in collaboration with Assembly.

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