Reviews

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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!

Fringe Toronto 2018
July 6-14 2018
Al Green Theatre


Reviewed by Ted Fox


This Half Second Echo presentation of In Threes features the choreographic works of Tracey Norman, Miles Gosse and Alison Daley. All these pieces are wonderfully danced and highly entertaining.

(an) other
Choreographer: Tracey Norman
Performers: Justine Comfort, Denise Solleza

Begins with the two performers seated in chairs, back to back. They are probably in a bar as the soundtrack suggests. Each leaps up now and then, their semaphoric gesturing indicating they are both expecting friends to arrive. "I'm here," one shouts expectantly.

She shifts her chair back which collides with the other. Spontaneously each reacts by reaching back with their arms one over and under the other's. An accidental connection is made.

Frantic movement follows. Towards and around each other. Circling. Assessing. Clasping each other's heads tightly. Butting heads like animals in defence of territory. Pulling each other towards each other then pushing away. Rolling on the floor.

A piano note motif gradually comes up leading to closer and closer contact as each examines the other's hands and face. A connection made. Each takes their chairs which are empty nearby. They sit down. Facing each other.

There is a great deal of warmth and emotion projected in their tentative reaching out and gradual developing a closeness togeher.

 

Feeling of Knowing 
Choreographer: Miles Gosse
Performers: Justine Comfort, Denise Solleza, Oriah Wiersma

There chairs now on stage. A lone dancer circles closely observing these chairs as she assembles and reassembles them in various scuptural variations. Then carefully balances on them, moving tentatively from one to the other.

Second and third dancers come up and participate as well. Their bodies move in different variations as they circle and move about gradually all coming together in a process of creation.

A subtle connection made. And to the satisfaction of all, have created a work of art. Two leave. However, alone again the one we saw in the beginning begins once again to dismantle and reassemble the chairs.


You Threw Me Off
Choreographer: Alison Daley (in collaboration with the performers)
Performers: Justine Comfort, Miles Gosse, Denise Solleza

Those three chairs again. Three dancers invite us to join in playing games, encouraging us to cheer them on. During this we note that here they are all connected to this task. A friendly repartee between them and us.

And the house lights are up through all three pieces so we are in an abstract sort of way them and they are us.

They playfullly compete with each other. One game is each selecting one card with a word on it-- tonight includes hands, squat and hips which they then employ as a sort of competitive upmanwomanship. A buzzer rings. End of round. A winner declared. We clap and cheer. As we of course sit in chairs. But oddly are connected with them

Works so well because of the relaxed spontaneous interplay between each, and between us and them.

Dance Side of the Moon 

Choreographer: Helen Simard
Video Projections: Kim-Sandh Chau 
Dancer: Maxine Segalowitz
Freestanding Room 
Montreal Fringe Festival 2018 
May 28-June 17 2018 

Reviewed by Ted Fox 

Helen Simard's challenging and very emotional dance solo takes place in a small studio in Montreal.

Dark Side of the Moon begins with dancer Maxine Segalowitz lashing out one by one at each of the six chairs lined up at the left side. Repeatedly slams each against the wall. Backs up slowly, clutching each chair in front of her, towards audience members seated on the right side until she brushes their legs. Turns quickly. Hands them the chair to clutch and look through for a short time. Perhaps she does this so they can experience the emotional burden she has to bear.

Kim-Sanh Chau's video projection begins on the back wall, and moves to the front. In this scene we see images of trees barren of branches, fields in which animals are blurry specks in fields. Space. Winter. Emptiness. Evocative of the dancer's state of mind. Throughout, an image appears of a golden orb as if the moon were hanging by a thread, unstable like Segalowitz.

Maxine Segalowitz fully encapsulates the effect of being beaten down by society and unable to be herself. The unrelenting expression of this on her body. Her twisting and wrenching. Her stamina, control and muscular strength. Maintaining the tension in her body for 45 minutes.

The hot steamy humidity of the space we are in. Her presence so close. Where we see the shades of emotions morphing over her face and emanating from her body. Anguish. Anxiety. Rage. Frustration. The steely determination to raise herself up. To be herself. Live her life.

The music of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is a key presence in itself. The lyrics are a metaphoric bombardment/assault. Crashing down on her and pushing her to the floor. 

There are lulls where Segalowitz seems to go into a quiet meditative state. Like being in the eye of a hurricane, waiting for the next tidal wave of turmoil to blow in.

Choreographer Helen Simard at times slides along the floor with Segalowitz, creating a somewhat eerie effect. When Segalowitz moves to an upright position, the shadows created by a flashlight from below create a schizo effect of another personality within her, its shadow moving over and above like an eclipse. This also brings to my mind images of the film Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, which is set in an insane asylum.

At the end, images of spring blossoms come up. The waves of music slowly subside. There is a sense of rebirth and hope. As she lies on the floor isolated in her exhaustion. 

 

Two Works by Sasha Ivanochko

Modern Woman in Search of Soul

Performed by Alana Elmer, Jacob Niedzwieki  (performer/interactive designer) and Vicky Mettler (composer/musician)

Mirror Staging the Seeing Place

Performed by Kristy Kennedy

Produced by Ivanochko et Cie

Presented by Citadel et Compagnie at The Citadel, Toronto

June 6-9, 2018

 

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

These two hour-long works by Sasha Ivanochko are mirror images of each other: “Modern Woman in Search of Soul” focuses on the external pressures on women from society, and “Mirror Staging the Seeing Place” explores internalized forces that distort women’s self-esteem.

“Modern Woman in Search of Soul” can be viewed as a powerful solo by Alana Elmer. There are two other performers on stage (a “videographer” and a “musician”), but they are hooded with full masks, like 18th century executioners or characters from a bondage video. The piece opens with a white fog surrounding what looks like a pornographic photo shoot, with Elmer contorting herself on the floor and the hooded Niedzwieki brazenly leering with the camera. The anonymity of the two hooded figures is disconcerting, and they stand in for the constant pushing and observation of women, who are represented in this piece by Alana Elmer. Elmer wears a pale beige costume (with black bars on sexual parts, as in old-time magazines) that keeps being stripped back, so that through the piece she has less and less clothing. The music—absract and directive— is intensely played by Vicky Mettler, who is dressed and behaves asexually, while Jacob Niedzwieki follows Elmer around the stage constantly, with the camera pointed at her.

Elmer has a very strong stage presence combined with delicacy of movement, and a voice that effortlessly keeps up with the theatrical and speaking demands of this piece despite the physical demands on her body. Ivanochko challenges her dancers to the extreme, deeply engaging us with their struggle. Elmer makes it look easy, but that is a large part of the beauty and empathy of this performance—and part of the daily struggle of women.

The fourth character in “Modern Woman in Search of Soul” is the audience. Ivanochko cleverly plays with audience participation, with audience voyeurism (beginning with the opening scene), and with audience complicity. A major narrative of the piece is Elmer calling out adjectives that fit with each letter of the alphabet, seemingly trying to honestly describe herself (not all of the adjectives are positive). She is ambitious, aggressive, brave, beautiful, courageous, careful, and so on. There is a coupling of structure—order, logic—here, with language, that is then broken.

In a repeated diagonal, Elmer begins to dance trippingly back and forth, and to play a game of asking the audience who she is—rather like dance/mime charades, where the audience is asked to shout out the answers. It is evidence of Ivanochko’s wizardry that she slowly reels the audience in, to beginning to call out dirtier and harsher names, from “cow” to “bitch” to much worse. This elicits a feeling of shock in the audience, a gut sense of collusion, and more empathy for Elmer’s character, who suffers through this and then returns to the alphabet, as if the terrible experiences have been put aside.

 

“Mirror Staging the Seeing Place” is performed in the round in the lower large room at The Citadel, with the audience’s chairs in a large semi-circle, keeping a view of one wall that is covered with mirrors and the performer in the middle. As we enter, Kristy Kennedy is using blue glass cleaner and a cloth to wipe down the mirrors; she is wearing jogging pants and a graphic t-shirt. After a while, Kennedy strips down to a short-sleeved ballet leotard, and begins to study herself in the recently shined glass.

In this work, Ivanochko creates incredible tensions between the humble approach of Kennedy—from cleaning the glass to the simplest and most exposing of costumes—and Kennedy’s clear strength, stamina, power, intelligence and beauty, as she torments herself in the mirror, reflecting the stigmatizing grimace and contortions of women against themselves, as they have internalized messages of inferiority, subservience (which does not have the dignity of humility), and ugliness. Kennedy fights to gain her power and to own it, as her body is distorted not only in front of us, but in the mirror, where she appears doubled; by amazing lighting craft, the mirror itself seems as deep as a pool. Neither is Ivanochko entirely without criticism of women; there is a resonance with the tale of Narcissus here, something else that Kennedy fights against in this very moving and powerful piece.

Ivanochko manages to intertwine the visceral with the philosophical, the ordinary with the extreme, and the mundane with the utterly thought-provoking. These two works reveal and mine fascinating social and individual stresses, and open and address the links between them.

 

Elvis & The Man In Black

Choreographers Laurence Lemieux / James Kudelka

The Citadel Ross Centre For Dance

Mimi Herrndorf Studio Theatre

May 2-5 & 9-12 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

This double bill features works by noted choreographers Laurence Lemieux and James Kudelka. Lemieux's Looking For Elvis is a challenging work loosely based on Elvis Presley recordings and songs. Kudelka's The Man In Black is a tightly choreographed intensely danced work to Johnny Cash recordings of six songs written by others.

Looking For Elvis 

Choreographer Laurence Lemieux

Dancers Erin Poole, Christianne Ullmark, Daniel McArthur, Michael Caldwell, Tyler Gledhill, Luke Garwood, Andrew McCormack

Opens with the dancers walking around what could be an auditorium or rehearsal space complete with moveable lights.

The dancers begin one by one walking into this space, seemingly assessing it, each other and us. Bright floor lights make their bodies indistinct. Each sits with the others in a line in front of these lights while one begins to explore a movement vocabulary.

All isolated in their own space engrossed in the process of rehearsing their movements. Each does similar moves of long elongated movements of hands, arms and legs. In slow motion. Freezing occasionally into animated cutouts like jigsaw puzzle figures. Then come together in a short segment all making these same moves in synch with each other.

Initially there is a hesitation in coming to interact with the others to create a piece. Awareness of eyes observing and assessing each other's moves. One scene has Christianne Ullmark smiling confidently doing her moves. One in group gives her a so so not bad facial reaction. Whereupon her face takes on a disgruntled look as she goes back into the watching group.

Interesting that she wears an eye-catching springlike green dress. The other woman in the piece, Erin Poole, is in black blending in and disappearing in the group.

How conscious are they of us observing them? Do they adjust according to what vibes come from us?

Throughout John Gzowski's sound design includes recordings of Elvis in conversation interspersed with snippets of his songs. Elvis talks about influences on his life, his relationship to his mother and other private thoughts. His need for privacy contrasts with the uncomfortable feelings he has of being a success,

A thought-provoking meditative work well-performed by the dancers.

 

The Man In Black

Choreography James Kudelka

Dancers: Erin Poole, Luke Garwood, Tyler Gledhill, Daniel McArthur

The Man In Black is totally different. A shorter piece in which the dancers, one woman and three men, perform six entire songs sung by Johnny Cash.

They are decked out in Western style clothing complete with cowboy boots.

Their movements are a high-adrenalin charged blend of country dance including square dance, step dancing and line.

There is a fierceness and desperation in their interpretation. They are always linked together in some way. Muscular arms pulling each other forward, back and around, shaped as if driven by a compelling force within in addition to the music without. Has the feel that they are bound together in loneliness and isolation.

Erin Poole is the only woman in it. This fact and the way she is repeatedly lifted and swung around create a mood of testoserone-driven violence.

The climax is electrifying in its intensity. They move in waves towards us. Both the music and their movements permeate our bodies so intense are they.

A really effective ending to a superbly danced work.

 

 

 

The Return of Ulysses

Opera Atelier Presentation

Featuring Kresimir Spicer as Ulysses and Mireille Lebel as Penelope

Music: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra conducted by David Fallis

Dancers: Atelier Ballet

Choreographer: Jeannette Lajeunesse Zing

Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street
April 17-18 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

The Opera Atelier production of The Return of Ulysses features dancers from the Atelier Ballet. They come from a variety of dance backgrounds, including contemporary dance and ballet. Many have been with the company for years, Jeremy Naismith since 1986.

The Return of Ulysses begins with a prologue in which Ulysses bemoans suffering mortals who are subjected to the whims of Time, Fortune and Love.

Penelope laments the non-return of Ulysses after five years in Troy. Frustrated suitors compete for her hand in marriage. They set up an entertainment in which they will present her with expensive gifts, each trying to outdo the other.

Choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zing's choreography is based upon Late Renaissance and Early Baroque eras. In the suitors' entertainment, the dancers' movement consists of the male dancers leaping in awesome scissored leg extensions. All stamp their feet, clap and and use castanets and finger cymbals.

At another point the women become Naiads, displaying Ulysses' treasures. They form a frieze, moving together, backs to us in a wall, back and forth. Their billowing dresses twirl splashing out bright resplendent shimmering color including yellow, green blue and yellow.

Closes with a rousing celebratory dance over which Jupiter (Kevin Skelton) appears on a mechanical cloud sprinkling sparkling confetti vaudeville-like over all.

Throughout are hilarious innuendos. One refers to the suitors as "shafts of love tipped with gold".

Many parts verge on absurdity, including the irritating yet funny reaction to Ulysses when he does return. Face to face with his undisguised presence Penelope expresses doubts that it is really him.

Kresimir Spicer as Ulysses tonally conveys pathos in the beginning, gradually opening up in emotional outbursts of joy. Mezzo-Soprano Mereille Lebel as Penelope vocally embodies her anxiety and frustration re Ulysses non-arrival and having to thwart her suitors' constant advances.

Soprano Meghan Lindsay excels as Minerva, her red lips ovalled into roboust voaclizations. Even at one point effectively transforming into a shepherd boy

Tenors Michael Taylor and Kevin Skelton provide comic relief as two of the suitors. The third Bass-Baritone Douglas Williams creates tension by his aggressively macho and threatening violent approaches to Penelope.

Set Designer Gerard Gauci's painted sets are evocative, becoming scarely present when sharp lightning flashes and loud claps of thunder announce the gods, as per usual in operas, meddling in these humans' affairs.

All is heightened by the nuanced interpretation of Monteverdi's score by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra conducted by David Fallis.

Driector Marshall Pynkoski gives us a satisfying psychologically dramatic production fused with comic moments and tension.