Duets, Dance and Rock and Roll for Usually Beauty Fails

The final show of Theatre Junction’s season intersects raw sexuality and pop culture.

This week, Theatre Junction presents its final show of the 2014-15 season, the Calgary premiere of Usually Beauty Fails, billed as a hybrid performance of theatre, music and dance.

First performed in November 2012, the show was developed by Montreal-based dancer and choreographer Frdrick Gravel as a way of exploring the nature of beauty and how it affects our lives.

“I started with the dancers and thought what could I do to define beauty? And I just couldn’t do it. It was just a construction, and I couldn’t believe in it, I couldn’t really trust it,” says Gravel.

“I never was able to [come to a definition of beauty],” says Gravel. “I just thought it was a stupid question to ask, but sometimes the stupid questions are the best because they are like a playground, and all of the failures help because we try, but we discover something.”

The point of the exercise, for Gravel, was not to answer the question, but to work with a talented team of dancers and musicians, and discover a story in the process.

“It was more and more desire to work with a certain team, certain dancers and musicians, and see what comes with this team,” says Gravel.

That group, led by Gravel, guitarist, singer and lighting designer in addition to dancer and choreographer, is the Grouped’ArtGravelArtGroup, described as a “variable collective of multi-talented artists who work together to ‘create extensively, try prolifically and persist enormously.'”

Usually Beauty Fails features six dancers and a live rock band, who perform together onstage in what others have described as a raw exploration of sexuality and relationships. Gravel performs as part of the band and as one of the dancers. The other two band members are Charles Lavoie and Vincent Legault, who usually perform with Frannie Holder as the band Dear Criminals.

During its Calgary engagement, Usually Beauty Fails will celebrate its 50th performance after performances across North America and in Europe. Over two and a half years, the cast changed and the show evolved.

“The show got stronger, and that’s nice,” says Gravel. “We just got more certain with what we were doing. The music evolved too and the dance, because the dancers have changed. And when we are doing the show with new dancers, we have to find more things in the show, and it becomes a new show.”

Gravel returns to the subject of the show and how it evolves with new performers.

“We are still doing duets that are intended to fail – or not fail, but not go exactly smooth. And it’s something I really like, but it’s hard to do onstage because you have to be in the moment, and it’s hard to be in the moment. You need to find freedom and make it happen, but it doesn’t go the way you think.”

Described as an acclaimed member of Montreal’s avant-garde dance community, Gravel is reassuring about the show’s accessibility.

“It’s easy to get and to get something out of it,” says Gravel. “The best approach is to understand that you’re not coming to see a dance show, but a live music and dance performance that references pop culture.”

Usually Beauty Fails is at Theatre Junction Grand (608 1 St. S.W.) from April 15 to 18. For more information, visit theatrejunction.com.

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