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Evi-Dance is now providing space for reviews of dance performances; the hope is that there will be ongoing insightful reviewing of dance and physical theatre shows. Watch this space!

He Who Falls
Conceived, directed and staged by Yoann Bourgeois
Performers: Julien Cramillet, Dimitri Jourde (alternating with Jean-Baptiste André), Elise Legros, Jean-Yves Phuong, Francesca Ziviani, Marie Vaudin

March 1-4 2018, Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Yoann Bourgeois, artistic director of Compagnie Yoann Bourgeiois, conceived and directed He Who Falls. He is an acrobat, actor, juggler and dancer.

He Who Falls is the English translation of the original French title Celui qui tombe which actually translates as The One Who Falls. It is not gender specific.

The set design consists of a mechanized platform/raft that represents our planet, our world, our society in which all are striving to survive whatever is thrown at them-- whether it be wars, nature or just being alive. All must stick together as a group. It's all for one and one for all. In the end they are left hanging and drop one by one.

As this production is from France It could be inspired by French painter Theodore Gericault and his famous work, Raft of the Medusa. This painting powerfully portrays the aftermath in 1816 of the wreck of a French frigate in which a raft had to be built for over 100 people to survive. This painting is displayed in the Louvre. The text on their website states that this "painting stands as a synthetic view of human life abandoned to its fate." For me this exactly sums up the content of this piece.

The performers are not choreographed but react to the centrifugal force of the mechanized platform. Their agility, physical strength, coordination and timing are awesome. They spin, move and interlock, while the set moves: swaying backwards, forwards and pushed around constantly by gravity changes. It spins like a planet in orbit or a raft snared in a whirlpool. Or lurching and tilting back and forth in a storm.

A woman runs and leaps over the others splayed on the surface as it constantly spins and tilts, never falling or missing a step. It looks so easy to do as she never flags for an instant.

Two figures wearing headlights appear in the dark beneath and dismantle the rotation device. The platform is now grounded yet still hanging from cables.The performers push the platform up and over. As it returns they wait, standing till the last second, and roll under it as it straightens. One waits too long and seems to be hit full force. Others jump and hang on the sides.

The lighting design highlights their facial expressions so we can easily read them. This unspoken facial dialogue includes, What do we do now? Are you dropping now or me? What is going on here? Oh, no, not again! There is humour here as there is in the whole piece.

It's also brightly luminous at times, turning what happens into a painting. They move up a 45 degree angle till their shadows move behind like truncated crabs. Many times the platform radiates a golden glow, its texture and surface glistening like an abstract painting. Occasionally one leaves the group and goes it alone, walking to the edge, his weight causing the platform to tilt down with him. The others adjust to the new gravity.

The music selection is a mix of classical, pop and seemingly improvised polyphonic operatic vocalization. This amid the sounds of the creaking floor and the whirring machine sounds are really effective, including an amusing use of Frank Sinatra crooning "I did it my way."

This show skillfully fuses contemporary dance with circus arts to create a highly entertaining and somewhat political production.


Minor Matter

Production, concept and choreography by Ligia Lewis

With Corey Scott-Gilbert, Ligia Lewis, Tiran Willemse (in creation with Hector Thami Manekehla and Jonathan Gonzalez)

Curated and presented by Toronto Dance Community Love-In

Progress Internationl Festival of Performance and Ideas, Theatre Centre, Toronto

February 16-18, 2018

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

Minor Matter, the program explains, “is the second part of a trilogy (BLUE, RED, WHITE) performed by three dancers.” The influences and cultural waves involved in this show include the Dominican Republic, the US, and Germany.

We enter the theatre to discover a well-lit audience section, and a dark stage, from which grey-white smoke billows. The smell is strong and the air is dense with floating, bitter clouds that assault our eyes and lungs.

The performers (Corey Scott-Gilbert, Ligia Lewis, and Tiran Willemse), it seems, have also been levelled by this miasma. As lights at the top-back of the stage brighten, their shapes appear, angular and still—three people made vague and geometrically abstract by their uncomfortable positions and the dimness and acrid, fogged air. Then a male voice recites these lines:

I will like to turn you inside out and step into your skin

To be, that sober shadow in the mirror of indifference...


And because you shift, you shift, you shift and shift

I can tell you cringe to see the hypnosis of your own silence


For I am the last tomb of an invisible age of the dead

I am the first to spread the resilience of resurrection

[Opening lines of “Dreamtalk,” by Nigerian poet Remi Raji]


The work proceeds, not with narrative, but in pulses of sections. As the smoke clears a little, we can see that the dancers are dressed as if for athletic training, in cross trainers, gym shorts and workout tops. Training, working out, military movement and marching drums drive the front of the action.

Rampage. Eruption. Toxicity: the smoke thickens and wanes and clouds up again throughout the show. Does this refer to Hell, to war, the burn-clearing of land, to decimation of territory? Is fire and brimstone what the artists are depicting as surrounding dance and by extension aesthetics these days? Do I understand the references the piece is making? Some yes; many, I don’t think so. This is a constantly shifting and complex piece, where there is little time to sit back; the audience is challenged to keep up. The soundscape moves rapidly between baroque music, opera, military, and contemporary sounds.

Are we looking at the ruins of hegemonic culture and a nascent return to healthy culture, or a breaking down of old orders? The program suggests that the show is also about the theatre’s elements—foundational and material. Elements of colonialism and contemporary power structures are constantly implied in this piece. The soundscape charges in and out, rapidly moving between cultural memes, baroque to marching to a performer’s voice explaining how to protest—this is “Bitch 101,” he says. The sound provides the base for segments of highly active dance and periods of inaction that resemble stupour and exhaustion. The movement is intense, powerful and executed with precision by the dancers. They are also highly expressive—confronting and challenging the audience, facing us from a couple of feet away, with strangely ambiguous demeanours—is this frustration, anger, feelings of violence, a desire to convey overwhelming memories? What is constantly clear is the performers’ command of the stage and the theatre that they maintain at a high pitch throughout the show.

The lighting is also integral, blasting from blackout to black light, from dim to full stage light. One sequence is performed in hard red light, and red lasers are used to strong effect, pointing out in shining arrays that in part target the audience.

From the theatre world, there are shades of Handke here, and Osborne—and many references not in my cultural vocabulary. The audience is assaulted—constantly by the smoke (eyes and lungs especially) throughout, and one worries about the dancers exerting themselves and breathing in this poisonous fog—and by the sense of societal breakdown, the shredding of meaning, and desperation within the piece.

For a long while, the performers intermittently seek ways to engage with each other, whether running together, exercising, touching while lying on the floor evading the red lasers, even hugging. But in theme throughout are their attempts to make higher and higher pyramids with their three bodies— which attempts eventually fall into a randy but unsexual romp—and which are material manifestations of unfairness, of exploitation, of trying to put down the others by literally climbing over them and using their bodies as a platform. This process ends with them against the wall, then falling, then piled up and against audience seats in a corner of the theatre, where they struggle in ugly effort to maintain their imbalance.

What fights to be heard through this noise and movement is the performers’ expression of the human scale, art, connection and love. Here are discipline, focus, belief, power, enchantment. Minor Matter is like a poem; its ocean of surface, texture and expansive exploration—in spite of the limitations of the stage itself— implying depths of hope.

[Research thanks to Ted Fox.]



Written and directed by Jordan Tannahill

Performed by Robert Abubo, Danielle Baskerville, Jennifer Dahl, Philip Nozuka and Liz Peterson

Lighting design by Kimberly Purtell

Vocal compositions by Philip Nozuka with the ensemble

Canadian Stage/Lower Berkeley Street Theatre, Toronto

January 26 to February 11, 2018

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

The stage of the Lower Berkeley Street Theatre is open to the brick walls—no curtains or backdrop, adorned only by the walled-in windows of what used to be a church. Our sightlines are clear. Four long fluorescent lights hang from the ceiling, perpendicular to us, and shine down on a stage floor devoid of props and furniture, except for a large square of luminous white plastic—maybe 15 by 15 feet—that is the playing area. This array is consciously artificial and immediately sets up a contrast between the technical and the human. There is no comfort in this glare. The set creates the aura of a graphics light table used to cut and organize images, of display cases for exotic avocadoes or Gucci purses, of greenhouses, of sterile medical clinics. It is not playful; it promises hard work. This could have been ironic, but thankfully it is not. It is surefooted and brave.

This uncompromising light shines up and shines down, and into this bright square runs Liz Peterson, in a loose sweatshirt, brown pants and black shoes. Peterson can see a large screen onto which the spoken text is projected (the audience can only see this screen by a neck-twisting turn in the seat). In Jordan Tannahill’s conception, the text is a score, something like what a musician would read, except in this case the dancer/actors recite (or occasionally read) the text aloud, while improvising gestures or movements that parallel, evoke, argue with or create tension against the text.

In an active, modulated voice, Peterson begins to speak, accompanying her words with a semaphore of gestural meaning—clenched fists, falling rolls, friezes, fleeting tableaux—which appear and disappear, much like the moments of our days. Peterson is alone on stage, switching from madcap to solemn to manic, airplaning, miming a slap or caress, crying, writhing on the ground—for the first half hour or so of the show.

Declarations’ text operates on the conceit of “declarations”— the phrase “This is” precedes every statement for the majority of the play: “This is how I lie down; this is a car speeding; this is the hard part; this is time itself; this is an abandoned storefront…” The tension between the text’s extremes—“This is thirty seconds of your time.” “This is a dirty rag.” — replaces the traditional tension between characters, and the shape of the piece and its segments replaces standard dramatic development. Declarations is also a long poem. Tannahill reaches back into classic theatre, bringing poetry back into drama.

The lighting never changes. There is no soundscape apart from the performers' voices. After a while, one understands the pattern, and the repetition of “This is,” despite the living energy of the improvised gestures—becomes a bit annoying and monotonous. But, isn’t tedium, with flashes of wonderment, what daily real life is like? It is magical how insistent that aspect of this highly stylized piece becomes.

More performers are added to the stage until there are five (Peterson, and Robert Abubo, Danielle Baskerville, Jennifer Dahl and Philip Nozuka). They trade off or synchronize the production of gestures, atomized, seeming lonely. For the first fifty-five minutes or so, the text moves between the mundane and the profound, the sacred and the profane, the silly and the mortal, powerful meaning and the forgettably ephemeral. Tannahill stretches his phrases in huge arcs around experience, from intimate sexual moments to neutral observations, in the process limning a greater consciousness or sphere of existence: Tannahill’s existence.

Declarations left me hungry for specificity, individuality, and tactile particularity. The cosmic, impersonal, and pop-culture memes are entertaining, as is Tannahill’s powerful way with language, even within such constraints. The piece presents itself as utterly portable; we could be anywhere. There are no characters (though the dancers are highly differentiated from each other, and there are three women and two men). We do not get to know Tannahill, or his mother, beyond a brief and moving vignette about her, terminally sick, jogging down the street to the bus stop in her bathrobe, to bring him the phone he forgot at home. “This is her love,” says the text. In another moving sequence, the ensemble repeats a kind of humming howl, referring to a dog tied up in a back yard. Is the play talking about being afraid of real being, of real feeling?

The actor/dancer/performers are amazing and fairly quiescent for most of the show. They maintain a quiet watchful power; they are not transported. About twelve minutes before the end of the piece, they begin a choreographed, tightly sung, danced and acted song whose liveliness and intensity is startling. Perhaps derived from the Bob Dylan song “Shake, Shake, Momma,” this spiralling, synchronized, syncopated section is sensual, rhythmic, moving, sharp, impelling, and punches through the quiet surface of the show— demonstrating what these performers are capable of in ensemble work, as well as their emotional power. There is something here, too, about the difference between isolated drift, and conscious connection between people.

Again and again, the play seems to ask us to consider, is this like life? Do we all spend so much time in quick forgettable gestures that we do not challenge ourselves or use our talents in ways that we could, letting time slip past? This is part of Declarations’ depth and seductive ambiguity—we don’t get any answers. Is this profound, or is it menial, dull and quotidian? Or maybe it is both, and Tannahill is uncovering the hidden essential energy that flows through every moment of every day, powerfully capturing the essence of contemporary dissociated being and its confrontations with mortality.






Director: Alvis Hermanis

Actor: Mikhail Baryshnikov

Winter Garden Theatre, Toronto

January 24-28 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Brodsky/Baryshnikov is a tribute to Baryshnikov's friend, Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, who died in 1996. Brodsky was exiled and emigrated to the United States in 1972. Baryshnikov defected to the West where he met Brodsky.

The set design by Kristine Jurjane consists of an art nouveau grayish stone conservatory. Two cherubs stand on guard to the right and left of the entrance. The inside is gutted. There is a bucket of paint, and bare light bulbs with exposed wiring suspended from the ceiling. There are other indications of a restoration in progress. A sense of the loss of the vanishing old world being replaced by the new, or a metaphor for the ruin of his body wracked by age.

Baryshnikov reads or recites Brodsky's poetry while sitting on one of two benches located on the narrow area in front of the conservatory. Nearby, on another bench, there is an anachronistic reel-to-reel recorder that appears to turn on and off on its own, playing some poems that Brodsky had recorded.

Baryshnikov reacts to these recorded recitations with compelling imagistic movements. These take place in the conservatory. We look through the paneled glass windows to watch. Our view is blocked by the panels, making his movements segmented and somewhat ghostly.

He spins with arms and hands flowing outward and then folding inwards: "the emptiness around me like a ball." He becomes a butterfly, his crossed hands turning his fingers into fluttering wings. A stallion rearing upwards, his hooves loudly hitting the floor. In the entrance he sits on a chair, pants rolled up with feet, legs and torso exposed. Body splayed backwards in grotesque tormented poses, reflecting the last gasps of life. Reminded me of Christ lying at the foot of the cross or perhaps a Francis Bacon painting.

All this takes place in varying degrees of bright light. A fuse box emits crackling sparks, causing the bulbs to go on and off, suggesting the struggle to maintain life on the brink of death.

Brodsky's poems are recited in Russian. The surtitles emerge and move upwards as if embedded in the wall above and released. The translations, by Jamey Gambrell, are vividly imagistic and rife with very black humour. Brodsky's reading has a forceful ritualistic cadence to it that is hypnotic to listen to.

Baryshnikov starts reading in a barely heard whisper. Gradually words become heard, as if initially he is reading to himself. As he progresses, his body becomes agitated. He moves back and forth.

His poetry speaks of the passage of time, the wasting away of the body to the point where identity is erased bit by bit. Death is depicted as a black stallion looking for a rider.There are vivid descriptions of this process and resultant physical decomposition. All depicted with black humour.

There is a very low choir heard on and off throughout, sounding like it is leaking in through a portal in time. It is composed by Jim Wilson and is entitled God's Chorus of Crickets. It adds a spirituality to this production. I was amazed to find that the piece was composed using the digitally modified sounds of real live crickets, and was designed by the composer to mirror the length of the average lifespan of a human being.

This is a challenging and deeply personal production in which the vocalization of Brodsky's poetry, the evocative movement and striking visuals result in a very moving experience.

Note: If interested click on link below to hear the cricket chorus. ..

Older & Reckless #40

Artistic Director: Claudia Moore

Moonhorse Dance Theatre in association with Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto

November 10-11, 2017


Founder and artistic director Claudia Moore has been mounting the Older & Reckless series of shows, featuring older dancers and choreographers, for seventeen seasons now. In a relentlessly youthful world, especially in the physical arts like dance, Older & Reckless provides an outlet and showcase of the work and bodies of older dancers, and demonstrates many things about beauty, intelligence, love of art and expression and many ineffable elements in the process.

Older & Reckless #40 was constructed of two acts with an intermission; each of the acts consisted of a longer work (or excerpt) bracketed by two shorter works, for a total of six pieces for the evening.

“Tell Everyone” is a moving tribute to a young Portland, Oregon, man who stood up for young Muslim girls against a white supremacist who then killed him. As he lay dying, Taliesin Meche asked the stranger comforting him to “Tell everyone on this train I love them.” Peter Chin has created a joyous work that is less programmatic than symbolically resonant with the real events. Five professional and a score of amateur dancers fill the stage with the train passengers, forming and reforming into duets and groups to the music of traditional Tibetan and Papua New Gunea folk songs.

“Ils m’ont dit” (loosely translatable as “They told me”) is choreographed and performed by Jane Mappin and Daniel Firth. It is a major stand-alone piece with precise, varied movement, partnering and duets and solos, all reflecting struggles with mental health and celebrating the dignity of sufferers. Dressed in simple black, the performers execute difficult and fine movements with precision and elegance, even while clearly demonstrating pain and the hard work of seeking mental health.

Solo One was choreographed and danced by Heidi Latsky to propulsive music by Chris Brierly. Latsky is isolated in light that is not a spotlight but seems to seek her out and find her—she is dressed in a sleevless black top and loose black pants. The focus is on the movement of arms, out and around her body, with and against the music, twining and loosening, as she seems to shimmer in place, yet to be moving toward us at the same time. Elegant and  sensual, Latsky slowly travels toward the centre front of the stage. There is something commanding and mesmerizing about this performance, despite its apparent simplicity.

“In Two Days a Man Can Change” is an excerpt from a longer dance-theatre work of the same name by Lesandra Dodson, based on writings by the mystery/thriller writer Elmore Leonard. It has a desert, cowboy motif, and is quite text heavy. The two performers, Ric Brown and Darryl Tracy, carry and evolve the masculine/macho competition and symbolic struggle of the two characters with panache. This work has a lovely capacity to be funny and dark at the same time, as the two men begin to seem as if one is good and one is evil; they threaten to kill each other; and then it seems that they might even be two sides of one person. The desert (projected on the back of the stage) also serves multiple symbolic functions—as stereotyped masculinity is often played out without nuance or emotion allowed. This is a sharp and effective exploration.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you” is an emotional, longer solo by Sashar Zarif, and is based on a quotation from Rumi, exploring the past lives we carry within ourselves. Zarif, in traditional Middle Eastern garb, is a powerful dancer and performer whose movements, from twirling to complex characterological body extensions and facial expressions evoke his past selves with elan and energy.

“Abiding” is a beautiful short balletic work, choreographed by Matjash Mrozewski for Evelyn Hart, former prima ballerina for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Simple, moving and emotionally complex, the piece begins with Hart sitting, dressed in a long, formal white gown by Anne Armit, in a chair to the back and left of the stage. When she begins to dance, in long, flowing movements that could be those of clouds or swans, it is as if she is freed to strength and flight, and she frees us in turn, watching. The formal music by Handel is perfect for the operatic and dramatic mood, and lifts the dancer and fills the space that could be, by turns, a street, a garden, or a ballroom. When Hart returns to the chair at the end of the piece, her stillness raises questions: was the dance her dream of moving? Did we only imagine her moving? Or is she showing us how to be free of stillness, in many ways, to leave the sedentary, get up from our real and symbolic chairs and enter life freely? This is a gorgeous, delightful work.

Moore has put together another powerful show. Wisdom and thoughtfulness permeate these pieces. There is more arm work than leg work, less extremity of physical display, and generally the choreography is less taxing. At the same time, it brings other qualities: a quiet sense of perseverance, and a depth of emotional expression that comes from decades of dedicated practice. Older & Reckless #40 was a moving and fascinating cornucopia of enjoyments.