Reviews of SEVEN
Janis LaCouvee wrote: Since SPARK at the 2012 Fringe, this company has hit a chord with audiences in Victoria and Port Alberni, winning numerous Pick of the Fringe awards. Sonik-Henderson calls her style rhythmic contemporary—incorporating jazz, contemporary, hip hop and animalistic influences. I’m not a big dance fan, and know little about the genre so the Fringe presents an ideal opportunity to take small risks in extending my viewing habits. Broken Rhythms presents accessible pieces that draw my attention completely for an hour. SEVEN is the physical representation of the seven stages of grief as postulated by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Sonik-Henderson relates that choreographing this piece helped her to come to terms with her own grief. What a daunting task! During my own grief journey, I was unable to even put words to paper, and can’t begin to imagine the challenge of creating a physical language to deal with the turmoil a person feels. There are extensive program notes (including a description of the seven stages) with musical references. People who feel a need to understand intellectually would be advised to read the program before hand as it may help them to frame the dance sequences. Not having done so, I allowed the music and dance to wash over me, and sat in quiet anticipation as each picture presented itself. Many of the pieces are choreographed to the music of Finnish contemporary accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen—an artist who has revolutionized the instrument. Sounds are haunting and unusual—a metaphor for the un-anchored states of grief. A wild beast roars and rumbles and my heart leaps in recognition of this all-devouring state. Grief is endemic to life, none of us escapes its grasp, yet in our contemporary society we seldom talk about it. Nor are we often prepared to empathize with the grieving. SEVEN is a gentle way to introduce people to the concepts of grief—one that never seeks to burden or over-whelm.
Seven is the new show from Broken Rhythms Victoria, a rhythmic contemporary dance troupe here in town. They have blown away audiences for the last two years with their Pick of the Fringe winning shows Spark and Grimm. Each year, the group takes on a new theme to tell a story through dance. This year, choreographer Dyana Sonik-Henderson chose the seven stages of grief. In the past, I’ve always felt that Broken Rhythms did a great job of creating dance shows that were accessible to audiences who may not be familiar with the genre. By the end of the show this year, I felt they brought that same energy back to the stage. The four dancers that make up the show are by far the highlight this year. Their strength, emotion, and stamina were something to be reckoned with even with the dark tone of the material. Taking on the seven stages of grief through dance is a challenge because there is no specific story one can tell, but as an audience member, I found myself filling in the gaps with my own personal experience. Seven is a perfect example of the stunning local talent Victoria has to offer and is perfect for anyone looking to try something new at this year’s Fringe.
Angelina Alexander of the Marble wrote:
SEVEN, produced by Broken Rhythms, is an empowering piece of contemporary dance that expresses the seven stages of grief. The dancers, Paige Brar, Naomi Graham, Chelsea Hilbert, and Meagan Saulnier are graceful and passionate as they execute Dyana Sonik-Henderson’s amazing choreography. The seven stages are shock/denial, disorganization, volatile reactions (anger), guilt, loss and loneliness, relief, and, finally, rebuilding/reconnection. The music chosen for each stage is powerful and the dancers effortlessly mate the concept of grief with their motion. Using blue balloons, they present the simple image of avoiding grief and how helpless we are at keeping the pain at bay. Disorganized is its own chaos without rhyme or sanity. The dancers portray the earth-shattering realization that what once was is now gone forever, and how one struggles with that knowledge, and damn near drowns in it. Using shadows and light, they embody the volatile reaction with such passion and force: the anger as a beast that trembles and lashes out without compassion or reason. The guilt phase is a like a heavy dream and the tableaux they’ve created are heartbreaking in their beauty. Loss and loneliness are represented as a white shawl that embraces the dancers. This object became something that they could cling to, all the while trying to keep it from engulfing them entirely. The relief stage displays strength and power: the first steadying e when realizing that everything will be okay. This dance is that first step towards a true smile: the chaos slowly returning to order. The rebuilding and reconnection phase is not only the end of the journey but the beginning of a new life. This last dance was heartwarming and uplifting. The blue balloon makes its final appearance as the dancers let it go and it drifts away. These talented young women have captured the essence of grief and the pain that comes with it. They’ve taken something as illusive and intangible as grief and given it life in a way that is both beautiful and accurate.
Jason Hills of the Edmonton Sun wrote:
Anyone who has ever experienced any sort of traumatic loss can relate in some way to this dark and powerful dance routine that is a strong reflection of the seven stages of grief. The group takes you through the grieving journey of shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger, depression and reflection, the upward turn, reconstruction and acceptance and hope. As someone who has experienced traumatic loss and have experienced these stages of grief myself, I was intrigued and a little skeptical on how they were going to incorporate these stages through a dance routine — but they found a way to connect with me (and that isn’t always easy). I have to commend playwright and choreographer Dyana Sonik Henderson on a job well done. The cast members (Naomi Graham, Chelsea Hilbert, Paige Brar and Meagan Saulner) receive high marks when it comes to the way they performed. They showed raw emotion and they found a very unique way of being able to tell a story through dance. You gain a strong sense of where they’re at in the grieving process throughout the performance and it’s easy to follow. They do a great job of portraying what it’s like to lose someone that’s so close to you. Some of the parts that stuck out to me were the stages where you see the depression and reflection, the upward turn stage and the acceptance and hope stage. You truly see the transformation that they go through. It’s very symbolic and you can relate to these moments that may seem small to anyone who hasn’t experienced grief, but they’re big when it comes to the process. Throughout each stage, the performers used the right amount of emotion to not be over the top, or cheesy, and I liked that. So many times when someone is going through grief — not everyone can fully understand what that person is going through — and they made a very strong connection with the audience. 4/5 Suns