Dancing just to wake up

Louis Turcotte was not dancing, he was pacing rapidly, pantomiming the carriage of a hard-boiled egg over his cupped palm. He was lunging, conveying himself as horizontally as bipedalism allows–all with the aplomb of a classical danseur (after all, he was a cast member in the University Ballet of Chicago’s recent production of Swan Lake). But Turcotte’s movements last Friday were not dancing (dancing  would imply, at the very least, music) as much as he was just moving interpretively and with the tantric grace of a yogi.

Set to silence, this 25 minute untitled performance served as the focus piece of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel’s “Urban Landscapes” exhibit. The piece, although perhaps more relevant to the artist’s other exhibited works on ruptured borders than to the event’s overarching theme, was basically a linear composition of vaguely rhythmic bodily translations–highly evocative, aesthetically curious, and  intentionally, as he put it, “arbitrary.” The effect was striking. The intimacy and starkness of the performance lent itself to such captivation that at one point, after Turcotte had lain on a cardboard mat for more than a few moments in silence, his ensuing shriek visibly startled most of the audience.

Turcotte’s inspiration for the work, he says, was the premature death of his father. What struck him then was the grief of loss–not only the loss of one of the most profound relationships in his life, but also the loss of the naïve presupposition of immortality that naturally characterizes those who have not yet known death. This performance was Turcotte’s formal response to his resultant existential woes; a performance “about life and how we perceive our future death.”

“Screaming just to wake up” was just one of the many manifestations of this response, the boldness of which he expressed hope would speak for itself. “I don’t like symbols,” he said, referring to his meticulously contrived and almost mechanical routine. “I prefer to evoke rather than to reference…I want to seem very, very vulnerable and at the same time very, very confident.” He does. (Ryan Walach)