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!

Older & Reckless #40

Artistic Director: Claudia Moore

Moonhorse Dance Theatre in association with Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto

November 10-11, 2017

REVIEWED BY BEVERLEY DAURIO

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.

Triptyque

Created and Directed by Samuel Tétreault

Choreographers: Marie Chouinard, Victor Quijada, and Marcos Morau 

Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto

November 15-November 19 2017

 

Reviewed by Ted Fox

 

Triptyque is a presentation of The 7 Fingers (Les 7 Doigts), a prominent circus company in Quebec. For this show, company Co-Founder/Artistic Director Samuel Teheault intergrates dance with circus by inviting choreographers Marie Chouinard, Victor Quijada and Marcos Morau to create work with Doigts performers.

In Anne & Samuel, choreographer Marie Chouinard follows up on her 2005 production of Body Remix/Goldberg Variations, in which she experimented with gravity, using medical crutches to restrict dancers' movement. These appendages elongated arms and legs, transforming her dancers into alien-like creatures.

Chouinard features two circus performers in a duet, that begins with Anne first appearing hanging strapped like a slab of meat from a bar hanging between two ropes. He takes her down, attaches crutches to her, and then interacts with her. The crutches imprison their bodies, creating an inhuman barrier between them. In the end, he removes material from his face that gave him a satyr-like look, and later they liberate themselves from the crutches, after turning round and round on their bodies as they copulate together.

Choreographer Victor Quijada is co-founder of the breakdance company RUBBERBANDance. In Variations 9.81, his performers are eight hand balancers who, face down, grip wooden pommels atop movable poles. They skillfully move them from hole to hole which are scattered across the stage. The performers move the stands seamlessly as they switch poles or double up on them. Their legs, whether straight up or at an angle, act as if detached from their bodies ,undulating like insect antennas or like the fronds of underwater flora moving with the currents.

Choreographer Marcos Marau begins his piece Nocturnes with a woman lying in bed asleep, then abruptly awakening. She is clothed in white as are the white uniformed figures who appear suddenly from under her bed and encircle her. The realization comes that she is in a hospital. Or hallucinating at home in her own bed? Is she mad? Reacting to her medications or off them? The bed sheets and pillows are white, too. Very cold and clinical. She encounters a variety of creatures. Among them-- a unicyclist, a crystal ball juggler, a few jogging as if suspended in air, and fish creatures dancing in a chorus line.

Snowfakes fall. The bed becomes somewhat like a magic carpet floating upward and hanging suspended. At another point it is lifted up and facing us so we look down at it, in a nightmarish segment where hands come out of the mattress and grope and molest her. She reacts by twisting and turning.

The overall effect of this is like watching an animated film, like those Betty Boop cartoons featuring shape changing characters that turn into a variety of creatures. The lighting and visual designs are quite cinematic. The hyper frenetic movement increases in intensity as we watch.

Triptyque is fascinating, visually striking and expertly performed.

 

Men’s Circle

Director, Choreographer, Writer: Kathleen Rea

Dramaturge: Tristan Whiston

Cast/Co-creators: Harold Tausch (Paul Lewis, Understudy), Bill Coleman, Allen Kaeja, Kousha Nakhaei, Rudi Natterer, Deltin Sejour, Mateo Galindo Torres

With original songs by Ariel Lama, and original music by Kousha Nakhaei and Rudi Natterer

Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto

November 2-5, 2017

REVIEWED BY TED FOX & BEVERLEY DAURIO

Men’s Circle begins with thirty or so casually dressed men milling about near to and on the stage, talking and relaxing in full light—then a loudspeaker announcement calls the men either to the lineup for Maple Leaf hockey star Auston Matthews autographs, or to a therapy group. Most of the men race away for the sports event.

Choreographer and writer Kathleen Rea is also a Registered Psychotherapist. Rea has focused Men's Circle on a therapy group consisting of men suffering from a range of problems, including the therapist, who is haunted by a failed therapy where his client, Frank, died. Joe (Allen Kaeja) is unable to express emotion or be vulnerable—he and his wife are having marital problems and his wife has urged him to go; Ran (Rudi Natterer) has been sent to mandated therapy by the courts; Hercules (Deltin Sejour) is a ballet dancer struggling in a harsh and macho world; Kevin (Kousha Nakhaei), still living at home, and on the autism spectrum, was urged by his parents to get social help; Matt (Mateo Galindo Torres) has drug addiction and anxiety problems and was sent to group therapy by his psychiatrist.

A large part of the focus of this piece is on men being unable to freely be themselves in a society where masculinity means internalizing weakness, and not expressing emotions.

The performers/dancers give voice to their own individual true experiences in words. Their body language illustrates their pain, suffering and vulnerbility in dance.

Bill Coleman plays Frank, the ghost of a homeless man who we see on stage left lying blanketed under the remnants of violin cases and sheets of music compositions. He moves in and around the men, unseen, identifying with their suffering and consoling them. Like the spirit of men supporting men, Frank has been killed by the society that abandoned him. Coleman takes on several Christ inspired poses. In one, he moves slumped over, burdened by an opened violin case that is pierced by arrows. A similar prop was employed in Coleman's Dora Award Winning “Dollhouse” last year.

Kevin (Kousha Nakhaei) is lonely and withdrawn. Trapped by obsessive repetitions and ritualized actions that relieve his anxiety—like constantly touching his backpack and pointing out its reflective white tape—Kevin walks in straight lines, and has been unable to develop his potential as a violinist in what for him is a hostile world.

Matt breaks down, weeping and suicidal and suffers an overdose. Hercules depicts his existence as a black man trying to thrive in a racist world. Joe’s very artificially cheerful presence looms over the others, with his blustering and denial— all is well with him, he insists.

The therapist (understudy Paul Lewis ably replaced Harold Tausch, who was sidelined by illness) also has issues. The therapist misses a session, citing appendicitis pain, leaving the group members to try to move forward without him. Ran helps Kevin do his therapy homework; Joe shows a soft side, helping others; each of them struggles with his own self-imposed restrictions and problems.

This is a very charming and moving show. Watching Joe—brightly and evocatively played by Allen Kaeja—change to the point that he can speak of and for himself and can enjoy listening and helping is fascinating. Kevin’s alteration from severely hidebound boy to a man who plays beautiful music with his friend Ran caused quite a few audience members to cry. Showing the emotional wounds of the therapist keeps him human and binds him to the group and to us in the audience. The scene where he holds the ghost of Frank, the ghost only he can see, suggests recognizing and dealing with a feeling of responsibility for Frank’s death.

The characters are drawn with sharp and clear strokes, and the performers bring them to identifiable and vivid life. We care about all of them, and struggle with them to be better, to heal and to grow.

The sessions have a raw improvised feel to them, as they would in real life. They are punctuated by Rea's choreograpy, as the dancers express body releasing, liberation and healing. The music, especially the violin and piano played on stage live by Natterer and Nakhaei, provides punctuation dramatically and is lively and beautiful. The lighting similarly works to isolate, flood or gently lift and focus the action—when the men are in a circle, floating and flapping a large white parachute between them, it is as if light is emanating from the white cloth. Everything in this show is carefully shaped, but it does not feel artificial—it moves organically as the men change, like life.

Men’s Circle ends as it began, with the male volunteers back on stage, conversing. A few, including Coleman, move part way up the stairs into the audience, creating a dreamlike zone where we are complicit, like the world, in their suffeiring, and joyous in their successes.

Dual Light

Conception, Writing, Direction: Andrea Nann

Sound: Joshua Van Tassel

Lighting and Scenography: Simon Rossiter

Dramaturge: Sarah Chase

Dancers: Brendan Wyatt, Yuichiro Inoure, Kristy Kennedy Sahara Morimoto (replacing Andrea Nann)

Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto, October 19-21 2017

Reviewed by Ted Fox

In Dual Light, Creator/Writer/Director Andrea Nann explores the movement of different cultures migrating from their homelands to other countries. Reflecting this are the four dancers-- two males, two females. One of each is Caucasian and the other Asian. Some go to live in a specific place. Others are travellers. They feel alone in an unfamiliar setting until they make connections and adapt.

Brendan Wyatt talks about leaving the small town in Saskatchewan where he was born, to study ballet.

Yuchiro Inoure, speaking Japanese translated by Andrea Nann, humorously describes leaving home to go to Germany.

In recordings of Nann in conversations with her 87-year-old father, she asks him about how in this moment he would define "plan" and the phrase "betwixt and between." His answers reflect both his living in many cultures but also his state of mind. Memory for him is a step-by-step process and the phrase reflects his current state of mind-- neither here nor there.

The choreography reflects this. Each dancer is separated from each of the others, like planets with vast spaces between them, all constantly moving. All are focused on contact with another. Attracted by their body heat and vibrations they give off, pulling one another, making contact and then dispersing. A sense of emptiness and longing. Moving in and around on different pathways. And in the end grouped in a circle as they were in the beginning.

Since each dancer's text is based on their own life narratives, deep emotions come through, both in their text and body language. Deep inner emotions surface and channel into the audience, suspending us too in time and space.

An example is a monologue by Kristy Kennedy. She gradually brings her arms up over her head, down the back and up again. All the while she describes the sensations she feels. The space between, The heat emanating from arms and hands. Her language flows, becoming more and more emotionally expressive. Her eyes and face are intensely focused both inward and outward at us. So emotional is this that I felt very moved. One audience member in the Q&A at the end said she was in tears and could not explain why.

A live electronic performance by musician Joshua Tassel combines modulating frequencies that create a sort of celestial suspension in time effect. This is punctuated by some cover songs recorded by the Skydiggers.

The lighting design by Simon Rossiter illuminates and highlights parts of their bodies witinin a landscape of darkness. Suspends them in a dreamlike mystical meditative space. A world betwixt and between. The life cycle.

The lighting is particularly effective at the beginning and at the end where the performers are grouped together, hands cupped and intertwined. Their fingers bathed in bright light undulate like the tentacles of underwater sea anenomes. The performers stare down in wonder at this.

The dancers are superb, creating much of it in the moment. The night I saw this show, Sahara Morimoto had to replace Nann at the last moment as Nann had an injury opening night. Morimoto fully incorporated her presence into this piece

Overall Dual Light is poignant, futuristic and very emotional. A dreamlike metaphor of personal journeys in the multicultural world we live in.

Factory

Choreographer: Michael Caldwell

Performers: Lori Duncan, Louis Laberge-Cote, Benjamin Landsberg, Kaitlin Standeven and Heidi Strauss

Soundscape: Phillip Strong

Lighting: Noah Feaver

The Citadel, Toronto

September 20-23, 2017

REVIEWED BY TED FOX AND BEVERLEY DAURIO

On the postcard for Michael Caldwell’s new show, Factory, the performers are lined up, looking at us with stern, unhappy faces. Like workers on a factory assembly line, together, but isolated from each other. Focused.

In Factory, three women and two men (Lori Duncan, Louis Laberge-Cote, Benjamin Landsberg, Kaitlin Standeven and Heidi Strauss) concentrate on their tasks, but their actions seem pointless. They appear to be moving into a new space to live together. Their sparse furniture includes a tall fan, a red carpet, a low table, and a vintage radio. Each arranges these to their individual taste, only to have another rearrange things again. They are working against each other, or opting out and lying down in the way. They act aimlessly, with determined, wooden facial expressions.

Lori Duncan moves to the fan, basking in its refreshing tactile mechanical wind blowing her backwards: twirling, whirling, spiraling like an autumn leaf lifted up and blowing in the wind. The others watch. Then they begin taking on her body language, following her around, then falling and rolling, as if driven by the soundscape.

Kaitlin Standeven, alone and breathless, is joined by Louis Laberge-Cote in an attempt to connect. In the ensuing duet, Laberge-Cote and Standeven move awkwardly in and around each other, over and over, pulling each other into nearly physical closeup contact only to push away, in a broken pas de deux of mutual dismissal, while the others huddle in the corner.

At one point, Laberge-Cote yanks off Landsberg’s dark glasses. Landsberg, unbalanced, moves blindly about and is violently assaulted by Laberge-Cote. Laberge-Cote moves in aggressively, confrontational and controlling, slapping him around and even slapping himself. This scene is hard to watch as the brutality and cruelty depicted between them is so intense. Strauss, whose body language becomes agitated at what is happening, moves in, pushing Laberge-Cote away and soothing and encouraging Landsberg, whose own solo is moving and tentatively free, now that he has escaped his tormenter.

The dancers begin acting tipsy, roughhousing in giggly near-violence. In a wash of blue light, Heidi Strauss rolls up a corner of the carpet, creating a spatial division between her and the others. The four become like a family, gathered around the vintage radio in a retro nostalgic home sweet home setting, listening to forties and fifties radio shows, news and music. Strauss, outside this zone, alone in her black shift and stocking feet, moves in solo in a frenzy, as if releasing inner demons. The five dancers lift the carpet over their heads, and dump it to crumple unceremoniously against a wall.

The choreography throughout, like the fans’ movement, ritualistically circles each dancer around and around. Sometimes their artificial wind bunches them together, forcing them into relationships they are afraid of. Movement vocabulary seems to come from a fascination with the fans; these objects attract and mesmerize the dancers. Each of the dancers has a long emotional solo in this piece, and each follows vertical swirling patterns with animated and expressive extension of arms and legs—but each solo is entirely individual, appearing to reveal each character’s real self.

In Factory, light, sound and colour washes are used impeccably to control mood. Phillip Strong’s soundscape begins with the sound of an off-station radio being tuned in, and includes bells, gongs, crowds, barking dogs, traffic sounds dominating the sound of children at play, all mixed with sirens, throbbing electronic beats, and the grinding of car engines, with a mechanical, driven feel.

We often see dance that is all about the technique of the body; here, Caldwell takes the technique that society imbeds within the body and manifests it, as philosopher Jacques Ellul alludes to in his 1964 book, The Technological Society.

As the piece closes, the dancers go back to lugging the furniture around; at times their movements are synchronized. They put their shoes back on, as the radio talks about climate change; they gather in warm light, in rising noise, and leave the stage together as the lights go down. Perhaps to return later and start again. Interacting with each other in a friendly way. A new beginning.

Factory is a thought-provoking, beautifully danced work that powerfully depicts the technological world we live in and how it attracts, compels and affects us as human beings.