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!

 

Katimajuit

Directed by Maziar Ghaderi

Performed by The Sila Singers: Malaya Bishop and Jenna Broomfield

Score by Saintfield: Clara Adams and Ali Jafri

Software design and visuals by Sahar Homami

 

One for Five

Choreography by Kristen-Innes Stambolic in collaboration with the dancers

Music by Frank Bretschneider, David Hildenbrant and Ejnar Kanding

Danced by Jordan Alleyne, Olivia Arcangeli, Yiming Cal, Tyra Temple-Smith and Claire Whitaker

 

The Theatre Centre, Franco Boni Theatre, Toronto

August 9-19, 2018

 

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

These two shows make an excellent double bill, both sharing genuine sweetness, clarity of vision, and an interesting and productive combination of traditional and innovative technological forms. Both were shown on an empty stage with a large white screen for video projection covering the back wall.

“Katimajuit” means “people meeting” in Inuktitut. The piece begins with a heartfelt acknowledgement of the traditional Indigenous territories on which the Theatre Centre is built, and a request to always acknowledge and be conscious of traditional territories.

On the stage before us sit The Sila Singers, Malaya Bishop and Jenna Broomfield, dressed in simple black and wearing headsets; one singer sings a traditional opening; the other carries a traditional drum and short drumstick. To the left of the stage, the two musicians comprising Saintfield, Clara Adams, with a keyboard and mic, and Ali Jafri, with drums and guitar, prepare.

As the two women begin to throat sing, a meditative feeling is created. The darkened screen at the back lights up with active white geometrical shapes that cross our visual field like a landscape viewed while travelling—up and down, in hills and vales, like skies and water recreated in simply drawn lines. The visuals shift and vary, while the two singer/dancers perform Inuit throat singing and dance, and explore the stage. At times they are people; at times they are creatures, confronting one another with teeth and claws, pushing back and forth on all fours, until they giggle and turn away.

Their voices are used as the source and power for the shifting screen visuals; these build and change with their singing. The guitar and keyboard join in with the throat singing. At one point, there is a loud frightening cracking sound, and the two women seem to become separated in a vast space. Though simple in action, this disorientation and distancing is emotionally complex, and as the two women wander and search for each other, the audience feels their lostness and wishes for them to reconnect. When they do find each other, grasping arms as throat singers do, and joyfully singing together and with the two musicians’ music, the screen’s visuals light up in beautiful blues and greens reminiscent of the Aurora Borealis, before altering to lines like sky and sea. The throat singers’ performances are by turns compelling, subtle and hypnotic with incredible breath control and range of sound. This is a powerful, inspiring and moving show.

To prepare for the next performance, One for Five, the dancers spend time during intermission laying down fluorescent tape on stage, in a curved abstract design. The desing’s arrow and circle are at once resonant with a contemporary and 1950s or earlier ethos. Coupled with the silvery-shiny stretchy tank tops and dark red trousers of the barefoot dancers, there is also a tinge of ’80s science fiction. As the screen at the back lights up with another version of the designs on the floor, truncated and active, the five dancers begin their variegated movements, and a sense of timeless gentleness is created.

One for Five is highly visual, formal yet soft-edged. The dancers, two men and three women, are constantly forming and moving into and out of individual shapes—arms or legs extended like birds’ wings, triangular and mainly vertical, with little horizontal floor work, connected with each other by touch or with glances. The effect is of joyful pattern-making, exploration of form, but without alienation—the feeling is not abstract, but lively, thoughtful and warm.

As the piece proceeds, the visuals on the screen shift and morph, until a large orange sun-like shape almost fills the back wall and travels across it. The music supports and enhances the performances, including gentle insistent percussion that adds force and energy, darkened with low cello notes, violin, bells tinging, and occasional syncopation.

The dancers— Jordan Alleyne, Olivia Arcangeli, Yiming Cal, Tyra Temple-Smith and Claire Whitaker—are impeccable in their execution of small solos, complex movement and difficult circling and position exchanges. Choreographer Kristen-Innes Stambolic creates a sensitive ebb and flow that feels at once intelligently artificial and charmingly natural. Sudden returns to identical movement appear and melt away again, flawlessly creating a vision of something like a living flower growing, but more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than that—perhaps the inner nature of an evolving society. This is an engaging and beautiful piece that won the Winchester Award from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre.

 

 

 

 

 

YES

Written and performed by Linnea Swan

SummerWorks Festival 2018
Theatre Centre Franco Boni Theatre
August 9-19 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

YES is a rebuttal of Yvonne Rainer's No Manifesto (1965), which was a reaction to the state of contemporary modern dance at that time.

Rainer was a choreographer, dancer and filmmaker and a founding member of Judson Dance Theatre, a collective of artists involved in experimentation, including dancers Twyla Tharp, Steve Paxton and Lucinda Childs.

At that time, Rainer was anti-dance and did not like anything about dance, including use of the heroic, trash imagery, camp and glamour. Swan has fun with this, like starting a piece only to have one of Rainer's "nos" enter her mind. Love her expressions when this happens. Like "no to trash imagery" re: Marie Chouinard.

Swan utilizes the entire wideness of the space as she uses a combination of mocking buffon, frenetic dance, pedestrian movement and falls.

We sit in a semi-circle. She is always moving in and out, close to us. On a video projection behind her, there are images from works like Rainer's Trio A and Nijinsky"s Rite of Spring.'

Swan, in this piece, asks if we feel alienated from work in which "dancers aren't doing anything and when they are doing something God knows why they are doing it."

You, the spectators, she adds, should not let others tell you what you should like: "Discover what yes means to you. What you value. What moves you."

A funny work eloquently delivered via her expressive body language and facial expressions.

 

 

Swim Team 

Director: Aida Keykhaii 
Playwright: Jaber Ramezani
Cast: Banafsheh Taherian, Sara Saberi, Tina Bararian, and Pariya Tahsini 

SummerWorks Festival 
Franco Boni Theatre 
July 12, 13 and 19, 2018 

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Swim Team is a SummerWorks Lab presentation, as it is a work in development. It is a powerful metaphor for Iranian women's lives in the restrictive patriarchal society of post-revolutionary Iran.

Roya (Banafsheh Taherian) is a swimming coach who has moved to an apartment in an area where there is no water. She agrees to teach swimming to three young women: Lili (Parya Tahsini), Katy (Sarah Saberi) and Nari (Tina Bararian). All have aspirations to become champion swimmers. Only by using their imaginations can they achieve that goal.

When we first see them, they are wearing chadors-- large pieces of black cloth that wrap around their heads and upper bodies, leaving only their faces exposed. They have to wear these when outdoors. 

They are attempting to move a sofa into the apartment that has a small doorway. The only furniture, at the back of the stage, is a table and four chairs. 

Roya begins the training by having them submerge their heads in bowls of water on the tables, holding their breath and then coming up for air.

Stools are brought in. She creates a pool by extending ropes made of scarves around the living room carpet, running from one stool to another. One stool will serve as a diving board.

Using their imagination, these women become swimmers. They realistically simulate swimming movements from one side of the pool to the other, holding their breath, swimming, and coming up for air. So adept are they at physically simulating swimming I too actually see the water in the pool. They towel themselves when they come out.

There is a relaxed camaraderie and warmth between them. Normal everyday behaviour. One makes tea, and gets blankets for them as the room is cold.

One drowns. Her facial expressions, gasping for breath and going under are quite realistic. Roya is stunned by this, saying over and over that she does not understand, as the pool is not there, there is no water here, how could this have happened? There is a notice at the box office for this, saying "Warning: Simulated Drowning." 

The others later wrap the chadors around their bodies and leave the apartment.

Well-acted and directed, Swim Team is a powerful evocation of how these women use the power of the imagination as a method of survival.
 

 

 

Fantasylover
Choreography: Alyssa Martin
Performers/Collaborators: Sydney Herauf, Mary-Dora Bloch-Hansen, Sam Grist, Natasha Poon Woo
SummerWorks Festival 2018
Theatre Centre Franco Boni Theatre
August 9-19 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox


Fantasylover consists of four stories that are not shown one after the other, but intergrated into the show. Result is we are experiencing this as a surreal dream. Seeing it is like flipping channels and going in and out of each story.
     Tessa Virtue (Drew Berry) longs to be independent of Scott Moir (Samantha Grist). Ironically, in doing this she wants to use her body to sell the Nivea soap brand. She turns her white socks into the illusion of skates as she slides across the floor or moves in unison with her partner.
     An Australian woman (Grist again) becomes more and more addled, sending email messages to a hopefully male date when she becomes lost in the wilderness.
     As Annie Lennox, May-Dona Bloch Hansen fights off female demons. A king (Natasha Poon Woo) with a rather large penis (luridly mimed) falls in love with a tree (Samantha Grist).
     The dancers are grotesque distorted caricatured satires of women as seen under the male gaze. As sex objects, they are dressed in tight dayglo lemon tank suits that accentuate their buttocks. They may appear as demons to those who perhaps feel threatened by ballsy women.
     These dancers are adept at constantly moving in a twisted grotesque way with their faces constantly shifting in a palette of unleashed emotions, including repressed anger and frustration.
     It is often very very funny. This makes the show more unsettling in that it suggests the question of why am I laughing at such a serious theme.
     The sound track includes the songs of Lorde, The Monkees and Jean-Baptiste Lilly, sung by all the dancers. Sound is deliberately distorted at times, reflecting the feelings of those singing. Overall the text is collaged from a variety of sources and original text, mainly from dramaturge David Bernstein and musician Sydney Herauf.
     Sydney Herauf, a Calgary-born musican, wrote all the text spoken in songs or poems. Her voice is nuanced both in her singing and vocalization. Not at all like the others. Her presence is calm, focused and assured, a counterpoint to the fantasy versions of the women around her.
     I have a mixed reaction to this work. The non-stop high level intensity of the movement combined with the loud bursts of the soundscape and vocalizations blur or drown out the text at times, though not as much when Herauf speaks.
     The introduction in the program by choreographer Alyssa Martin says it all: "We set out to create a kind of utopia but the problem with utopias is that they're always in the eye of the beholder."

 

Thousand Beginnings

Creator/Director: Margaret Muriel Legere

Performers/Creators: Jewels Krauss, Gulce Oral

 

Fringe Toronto 2018

St. Vladimir Institute

July 5-15 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

 

This is the first production from Under the Umbrella and is a very impressive debut. Thousand Beginnings is surrealistic physical theatre that is both emotional and humorous.

Begins with Jewels Krauss and Gulce Oral coming out, each holding a roll of paper towels. Playfully they hurl them into the air until the stage is covered. They shred them and roll around in them, emitting laughter as they do so.

Result is a set that looks like a wasteland. Half-buried, the women appear like survivors. In this case they are the victims of inheriting their parents' and grandparents' modes of behavour. They question how they can break out of them. How they can become aware of who they really are and lead fulfilled lives.

The words they speak are at times poetic. They question how exhaling impacts the clouds, how many breaths are in the air, whether the salt in their tears is the same as in the oceans.

They recite the sayings of their childhood, like stepping on a crack and breaking your mother's back.

Their bodies speak volumes in their movement. As do the cadences and the pauses in their vocalizations. Shades of emotion move across their faces.

The lighting is very effective in the way it reflects the wasteland of their lives. The paper towels, when lifted over their bodies, change their appearance into that of furry tentacled creatures.

Ends with one sitting relaxed in pensive thought. The other proceeds to pick up the towels, becoming more and more weighted down as she does so.

Beautifully acted and performed by the creator/performers. Movement skillfully created/directed by Margaret Legere.