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O Vertigo combines the physical with physics

| Thursday, May 13, 2004

By her own design, Ginette Laurin is at least one step behind other choreographers. She is less interested in movement than in the traces that movement leaves behind. Call it the visual equivalent of reverberation.

"I'm not interested in the shape of the movement," says Laurin, whose company, O Vertigo, closes the Quebec Festival Saturday at the Byham. "Because for me, if I think shape, I think photographic. What I do is more alive. So it doesn't mean that we're not precise on every movement in the studio. What is more interesting for me is the way to go from one movement to the next."

Her approach can be likened to the famous photograph in Life magazine of Pablo Picasso drawing in the air with a penlight. The photographer exposes the film so that the light leaves a trail, allowing the artist to sketch the shape of a centaur.

Laurin takes a similar approach, using light and film to capture the traces of her nine dancers in her latest piece, "Passare." The multimedia production, also titled "Another Shape for Infinity," premiered April 9 and 10 at the Opera de Lille in Paris before moving on to Linz, Austria.

"Passare" makes its North American premiere in Pittsburgh, where it brings down the curtain on the Pittsburgh Dance Council season. The show contains brief nudity.

Conducting what she says is her first interview in English, Laurin has the playful enthusiasm of a third-grader describing her first science fair project. She combines the visceral with the ethereal, mixing daring acrobatic dance with pictoral images and magic-lantern-style effects that seem drawn from a child's book of fairy tales. Her previous piece, "Luna," was a moon-drunk fantasia that featured women in immense hoop skirts on which video images were projected.

That production was the start of her collaboration with Claude Theoret, a Paris-based astrophysicist at the College de France. She enlisted his research for "Passare."

"We created the choreography and then we did the drawings of the different lines that the movement would create," Laurin says. "I sent that to Claude because he works in Paris. He realized that those movements were exactly the movements he was studying."

Theoret conducts research using a device called the Bubble Chamber. The chamber is pumped full of hydrogen gas that allows scientists to see and photograph the interaction of artificially accelerated particles.

"It's a chamber where we can reproduce the big bang," Laurin says. "They put the anti-matter and matter particles and they collide and it re-creates the big bang. ... The movement of the particles look a lot like the movement of the human body. If we put two lights in the hands of the dancers and we follow the movement, it looks a lot like the movement of the particles. It's very symmetrical with the curves and straight lines. We play with that, with those two kinds of movements."

She's aware of the alienating effect that over-reliance on technology can create, however.

"Yes, I try to be very careful with that," she says. "For me, the human dimension should be the first thing in my work. It's always very important that I keep the human dimension. To me, the new technology helps to come closer to the human body and reveal some details, things that we can't see when we sit in the house and look at choreography. For example, in 'Luna' I use those big magnifying lenses. It was a way to bring the spectator closer to the dances."

Laurin studied modern dance and classical ballet in her native Montreal. She danced with Groupe Nouvelle Aire and founded O Vertigo in 1984.

"I always liked movement," she says. "I did gymnastics when I was young. My mother used to tell me I had vertigo. Vertigo in France is a nervous horse disease that makes the horse spin and do funny things."

Sometimes, it's a blessing when things are lost in the translation. "The Pittsburgh Dance Council presents O Nervous Horse Disease" would have looked pretty peculiar on the Byham marquee. Additional Information:

Details

O Vertigo

Presented by: The Pittsburgh Dance Council.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Admission: $20 to $40.

Where: Byham Theater, Downtown.

Details: (412) 456-6666 or www.pgharts.org/quebec .

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