If ever there was a bleak valentine, Holy Body Tattoo's Circa is it: romance here is dark, bloody, and campy, more Edgar Allan Poe than Hallmark. Choreographed and performed by Vancouver-based Noam Gagnon and Dana Gingras, who've been dancing together since 1987, this hour-long piece is set in a shadowy room lined with red curtains and reflects the simultaneous tenderness and violence of the tango, its subject and medium alike. Divided into multiple sections, Circa is accompanied by live music (most of it original) by the Tiger Lillies, whose tango renditions of "Send in the Clowns" and "I Could Have Danced All Night," sung in falsetto, come across as ironic counterpoints to Gagnon and Gingras's more traditional takes on ballroom dance. Another song, "Banging in the Nails," is a cheery little number about Christ's crucifixion; the final song, "The Pallbearers," is all about maggots. The whole subtext of the piece seems to be sex happens, then you die. And though the dancing is occasionally tender or sexy, it's more often anguished: all the elegant, beautiful movement conveys a black message. Gagnon and Gingras frequently move in isolation, their necks craned uncomfortably at angles that mimic the distortions of ballroom dance. Terrifying phrases in which they throw each other to the floor repeatedly, faster and faster, end with the breathless capitulation "I do." And relationships are draining, not restorative: the crisp moves of the tango, done over and over, devolve into an exhausted going through the motions. Like the company's Our Brief Eternity, seen here two years ago, this piece employs lots of projected film; but otherwise it's much more mannered, less pure. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, February 14, 8 PM. Through February 16: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven Gilmore.