ArborAmor, a new work by the Ottawa Stilt Union, employs the power of music and human physicality to tell a charming story without the cumbersome burdens of spoken language.

The two principal characters are odd beings that seem compelled to dance to the music that permeates their world. The music itself comes courtesy of an accordion-wielding troubadour, and fuels the conflict that comes to light as the show progresses.

One of the characters seems bent on dancing the same dance that the duet have evidently been practicing together for a long time. The other character is pleased to dance outside the traditional pattern, and she and the musician feed playfully off one another’s willingness to pester the traditionalist.

It seems as though this enthusiasm is what gives rise to the deeper conflict in the play, which manifests in a struggle to incorporate an animate tree into the duet.

Photograph courtesy of Ottawa Stilt Union
Photograph courtesy of Ottawa Stilt Union

I very much enjoyed this show for its whimsy, and the fun manner in which it explores the challenge of adapting to change. That said, I feel like this conflict was not fully explored; the resolution seems to come without reason. The audience is willing to allow it to simply happen (after all, we’ve already allowed a tree to come to life in our minds), but the reconciliation between the two dancers seems to happen because the play is over, rather than because of anything that takes place on the stage.

This doesn’t detract from the pleasant experience of lounging on Tabaret lawn for 35 minutes on a warm evening with a whimsical story unfolding before you, but with a more explicit reconciliation between the dancer characters, the story would come full circle without any hint of missing something.

Wes Babcock


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