Culture  The familial jungle

Dance has a difficult reputation to escape; it’s often thought of as a technically challenging, formally beautiful art form that hasn’t changed much since the Ballets Russes caused a riot at the premiere of the Rite of Spring.

However, as with all art forms, dance changes constantly. And for more than two decades, Meg Stuart’s experimental choreography has pushed its limits as a mode of expression – exploring the way bodies move; actively engaging with issues of sexuality, community, and relationships; and transgressing boundaries of conventionality and propriety.

“Do Animals Cry?”, the latest work from Stuart’s Belgium-based troupe Damaged Goods, opens at Usine C in Montreal next Wednesday, offering the city a vision of the family through dance. The show comes to Canada after touring European cities for several months, playing to enthusiastic reviews in Berlin to Brussels.

Dressed in pyjamas, the cast of dancers performs on a stage dominated by a large, beaver dam-like structure of rough hewn sticks. As always, Stuart examines subject matter not usually addressed through dance. In “Do Animals Cry?”, she explores in a highly suggestive, visceral way, the unspoken rules of family. She describes the piece in a press release as “a frantic reunion where loved ones reminisce for the last time before falling to pieces.”

Much of Stuart’s work has moved in the outer orbits of respectability –  the last time she performed in Montreal, it involved her vomiting on stage. “Do Animals Cry?” will no doubt present disquieting images (of humans acting and being treated like animals, for example), but it will also offer a poignant reflection on what it means to belong to a family.

Do Animals Cry is playing at Usine C (1345 Lalonde) from February 24-27. Visit for more information.

—Emilio Comay del Junco