One event on which the two dancers collaborated occurred on April 3, 1948, at Ross House, a former army barracks on Montréal's Peel Street. Their co-production, Récital de danse, was comprised of eight dances and performed only once. Automatist member Jean-Paul Mousseau designed some of the costumes. Pierre Mercure accompanied on the piano and Gérard Gagnon played the trumpet.
The evening began with a dance called, Moi je suis de cette race rouge et épaisse qui frôle les éruptions volcaniques et les cratères en mouvement, which had been co-choreographed by Sullivan and Renaud in the summer of 1946. The title was borrowed from a poem by Thérèse Renaud, Jeanne Renaud's sister who was an aspiring actress and writer, and was read during the performance by another Automatist member, Claude Gauvreau. Next, Sullivan performed her solo, Déploration sur la mort. This was followed by a solo, Un monsieur me suit dans la rue, created and performed by Renaud to an Edith Piaf song. Sullivan then danced Dédale.
The last dance before intermission was Sullivan's Black and Tan Fantasy - as it was called for Récital de danse. Set to music of the same name by Duke Ellington, this work had originally appeared in Sullivan's notes for her Studio Evening as Black and Tan Fantasie and would later become known as Black and Tan. The evolution of titles for this dance is indicative of Sullivan's working method: there is a fluidity to her creativity; all projects remain open to revision. While this constant "re-visioning" might appear contradictory to the Automatist rejection of any modification to an artist's initial spontaneous act of creation, it demonstrates Sullivan's abundantly fertile imagination. A single subject provides her with copious ideas to circle back to different moments in her career.
As with its name, the costume and purpose of Black and Tan Fantasy also evolved over time. Originally, Sullivan danced the piece wearing a shawl with fringe that she had borrowed from her mother. But Automatist friend, Jean-Paul Mousseau created a "black and tan" costume consisting of a black leotard and leggings partially covered by a burlap vest with an open sleeve attached on the right side and burlap also wrapped around her left leg. The other leg was encased in tan netting. A burlap cape attached at the back of her neck swirled around her. On her head she wore a wig of loopy, brown rope.
In the dance, Sullivan's weight was low in her hips as she shimmied and gyrated. Her hands vibrated as if beating an invisible drum. One shoulder rolled back, then the other. Her head rocked freely side to side on the pedestal of her neck. Even her eyeballs looked left, then right, then rolled around in their sockets seemingly independent of one another. Near the end of the dance, Sullivan moved upstage. She turned back to the audience and rolled the shoulder closest to them twice before skipping back towards the lip of the stage. Crouching, she shook her head and beckoned with her fingers before running upstage where she finished the dance in a dramatic backbend pose.
After the intermission, Sullivan danced Credo, a piece set to music by Bach in which the young choreographer explored the structure of a fugue. Renaud then presented Déformité, a work that was inspired by the anxiety she had experienced during her own time in New York where she worked as a window designer during the day and took dance classes in the evenings. Angular and edgy, Renaud was dressed in black and became increasingly agitated as the dance progressed. Round and round she went in an ever-widening circle. Faster and faster she ripped and tore at her face, wrists and hair. All the poverty and violence and the corpse of a homeless man she saw frozen on the Brooklyn Bridge crushed down upon her until, at the end, she curled into the fetal position. After the emotionally draining intensity of Déformité, the two women performed Sullivan's Dualité, a more dream-like note on which to end the concert. (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse