Viewers play a role in Allegory

Within the striking photographs gracing the walls of Rah Rah Galleryone can observe the weight of the body, the wonder of illusion, silence and visual tensions between movement and stillness.

The show, called Allegory, is a collaboration between dancer Monique Romeiko and photographer Alistair Maitland, both based in Whitehorse.

These stunning images show the considerable technical command of both artists as they play with simplicity, body language, story and non-narrative structure in a collaborative process.

Romeiko and Maitland became a collaborative duo this November in Whitehorse for the Brave New Works production Homeland Fusion at the Old Fire Hall — an event with the goal of bringing together artists who otherwise might not work together. Crossing disciplines, artists from many genres met with the challenges of collaboratively creating original performances.

Looking back on this shared process with Romeiko, Maitland defines collaboration as, a mutual, shared effort towards a common goal.

“(Our common ground was) our openness to try different things, that there is no hard and fast or black and white,” Maitland says. “The process was so key to the final result. As much as Monique and I were laid back about it, we still had our own visions that intertwined as time went on. I’m a visual storyteller; she makes the abstract tangible. (These approaches are) slightly opposing in nature, but I think that tension is visible in the photos”.

This tension between abstraction and story is played out through the body dancing within the frame.

“The body is always the central visual point,” Romeiko says. “Through the body so much can be expressed. A well-trained body can embody so much, even invisibility. Through the body music, silence, action, stillness, story, abstract images become visible. I want to tell stories —abstract yet interesting/touching/absurd stories.”

Romeiko characterizes her dance style as, “trained to the nth degree, then using those same techniques to destroy (technique).”

In keeping with Romeiko and Maitland’s differing story-telling styles, the artists invite the viewer to come to the work with her/his own palette of stories and associations. Hence the exhibition name, Allegory.

“I chose (the name) because I have a problem with people saying they don’t understand contemporary dance and giving up on it,” she says. “The viewer can look at the photos and give them their own meaning, that’s what is important to me in dance and for these photos.”

Maitland echoes Romeiko’s comments.

“It speaks to the completely different ways both Monique and I see our work,” he says. “The meanings of the photos are not necessarily hidden, there is no hidden agenda here. But we’re certainly not going to impose our own interpretation on viewers”.

Romeiko hopes Allegory will provoke discussion.

“It is so interesting to get feedback, especially when people haven’t encountered contemporary dance,” she says. “There isn’t a single meaning. Everybody sees or feels something different.”

The show’s closing might be the best time to provide feedback.

“We are going to have a fun 5 to 7 p.m. closing reception – we’ll have food and drinks available and if time, space and energy permit, I will perform,” she says. “I will probably use Paul Charpentier’s music and source from the photos or create another score. I hope to persuade Alistair to join me. Who knows, maybe it will turn into a mass contemporary dance/photography party”.

The closing reception is Thursday, March 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. with performance, food and drinks. Allegory runs until Saturday, April 2 at the Rah Rah Gallery, which is located at 6169 – 6th Avenue at Strickland.

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