X’s and O’s for Canadian Pavilion

Entry from Acts of Transfer:

Duration: 26 min 40 sec
Format: ¾” Umatic

Margaret Dragu began her artistic vocation as a dancer. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, she spent time studying in Calgary, Montreal, New York and Toronto before moving to Vancouver in 1986.[1] Since then, she has developed an award-winning practice as an artist, writer, and activist recognized for her merging of art with social justice, politics, environmentalism, and feminism.

Dragu’s performances are often formed in response to everyday life experiences, and mediated through her various personas—Lady Justice, Verb Woman, Art Cinderella and Nuesta Señora del Pan.[2] Early on in her dance career, Dragu experimented with striptease and burlesque dancing. She later co-wrote a book titled Revelations: Essays on Striptease and Sexuality (1998) which reflected on her experience in the industry through research, anecdotes and interviews. Her time as a dancer eventually led her to think through movement and improvisation as a subversive tool to question the limitations of the gallery space.

X’s and O’s for Canadian Pavilion is part of a series of movement studies choreographed by Dragu that uses X’s and O’s as a pattern where “performers walk in straight lines that intersect at a middle point (forming the X), and then walk around it in a half circle (forming an O).”[3] The simplicity of the movement pattern “[makes] it easy for those with no previous experience to participate” and “brings people together, giving them the sense of participating in a common experience.”[4] The performance originally took place outside at the Canadian Pavilion in Vancouver during Expo 86. In it, Dragu performs alongside Jim Munroe, Alan Rosenthal, and Jane Ellison.[5] The female performers wear costumes made of colourful draped fabric reminiscent of traditional mediterranean garments and the plumage of Mandarin ducks; the mens costumes imitate Groucho Marx.[6] A duo (also in costume) provides musical accompaniment on guitar, violin, and mandolin in the Greek folk style of ρεμπέτικο or Rebetiko (transliterated as Rembetiko) between scenes.[7] A comedic and melodramatic script read by Dragu and one of the male dancers (directly channeling Groucho Marx) gives this particular study a Romantic yet occasionally tumultuous narrative. The performance concludes with a ritualistic flag dance as the procession moves beyond the ropes that delineate the performance space and out into the audience.

Musical Direction: Clarke Steabner
Choreography: Margaret Dragu
Costumes: Shelagh Young
With Peter Bingham, Jane Ellison, Jim Munroe, Alan Rosenthal
Video by Paul Lang, assisted by Susi Milne
Thanks to Doug Brown

1 –  ”Margaret Dragu – Canadian Art.” Canadian Art. https://canadianart.ca/artists/margaret-dragu/.
2 – Recently, Lady Justice performed as part of FUSE at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Accompanied by a musician and seven artists/cultural workers, they offered “gestures of protest against right-wing leaders of Europe and North America,” as described in the event’s pamphlet.
3 – Forket, Kristen. Caught in the Act: The Joy of the Local. Eds. Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder. Toronto: YYZ Books, 2004, 206.
4 – Ibid.
5 – In the Western Front archives there are many collaborations between Ellison and Dragu, a testament to their friendship and shared interests in movement.
6 – The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA). “X’s and O’s for the Canadian Pavilion Expo 86.” Advertisement. The CCCA Canadian Art Database Project. http://ccca.concordia.ca/artists/work_detail.html?languagePref=en&mkey=50890&title=X’s and O’s for the Canadian Pavilion Expo 86&artist=Margaret Dragu&link_id=5446.
7 – Ibid.

Original Archive Entry:

Choreography using X’s and O’s as map, floorplan, idea, magic ritual and gameplan incorporating music, slides, video and dance. Work is part of Dragu’s long running series based on choreography in which participants walk in X and then O shapes. The performance was done for the Canadian Pavilion in Vancouver during Expo 86.