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!

 

dance: made in canada

Cruz Series

Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto

August 16-18, 2019

 

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

Logarian Rhapsody

Choreographed by Tedd Robinson

Performed by Ian Mozdzen and Alexandra Elliott

Logarian Rhapsody is an inverted, upside down Adam and Eve story, in which a man and woman dancer, both dressed in white suits—possibly disco suits—are tempted to bite into a green apple that is the centre of their intense attention.

The performers add to Charles Quevillon’s at times creepy and always intense soundscape with their busy, buzzy, running dialogue of urgent whispering back and forth. We cannot make out the words, so their voices form an impenetrable constant message.

As the two dancers interact, sometimes fighting over the apple, sometimes handing it back and forth, the apple takes on a kind of quiet symbolism: is it peace, or nature, or the beauty of the bounty of our land that is off limits to busy urban people? Why are they so upset about it and distressed by their decision? They are very discomboluated by actually biting into the apple, which they finally do—but it also quiets them. Robinson has again created a meditative piece that asks us to think about how we live our lives.

 

Phase Wash (excerpt)

Choreographed by Jolene Bailie

Performed by Carol-Ann Bohrn, Helene Le Moullec Mancini, Aaron Paul, Sam Penner

Jolene Bailie’s Phase Wash takes us out of the everyday into a strangely imagined social place where performers dressed in black bathing suits dance in hot creamy light, organizing and re-organizing themselves in solos, duets and ensemble segments.

The piece opens with a single dancer performing extreme body builder movements to an ethereal but heavy beating soundscape that includes a lot of synth and organ sounds underpinned by grinding.

As the dancers join and separate, attitudinally harsh, sometimes hopping, sometimes gripping each other, including some very funny and intriguing lifts—at one point, a woman is held upside down, with her face in the lifter’s stomach—and throughout, shiny flakes of light keep falling over the stage.

As the piece reaches its climax, they begin bowing to each other, then running together, finally disappearing into the darkness. This is a visually powerful work.

 

Janus is a god

Directed/choreographed by D.A. Hoskins

Performed by Danielle Baskerville

Janus is a Roman god of two faces, each looking in opposite directions, and is considered a god of “beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings… he looks to the future and to the past.” According to the program notes for DA Hoskins’ Janus is a god, these references are highly apposite, as the work samples and refers to and takes parts from pieces that Hoskins and Baskerville have worked together on over more than twenty years of performance and dance, and look to their past and future works together.

To the left of the stage hangs a massive plain white globe. Does it represent the moon, a whitened earth, or perhaps, a balloon? Around the stage are arranged small stations of props—here a mic and mic stand, there an upright post holding a bundle of soft brown stuffed cloth, there a pile of items including musical instruments, there a chair. Baskerville appears in full light, unrolling a long wire and setting off a loud red alarm, to the sound of persistent, heavy beat music, wearing a kind of skin tight space suit overall, and dancing vertically in the space with angular grace, arms extended.

At one point she covers her face with a grey scarf, hiding her identity; at another she removes her shirt, exposing vulnerable skin. The music shifts and shifts, from choral to rock to Baskerville herself speaking into the mic a poem about “Your body.”

Throughout, Baskerville exercises an easy grace and fluidity, with delicate balance in complicated turns, making the transitions from one station on the stage to another look like a journey through lands we would love to visit. At one point she plays a bugle; at other times she returns to the original position of the opening, centre stage and dancing. At the end, she unpacks the brown cloth bundle—it is a large, soft human shape, that she carries with her off stage. A beautiful, commanding performance of a challenging and intriguing piece.

 

 

dance: made in canada

Morrison Series

Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto

August 16-18, 2019

 

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

La vie attend (excerpt)

Choreographers/Chorégraphes: David Albert-Toth, Emily Gualtieri

Dancer-collaborators/Danseurs et collaborateurs à la création: Joe Danny Aurélien, Marc Boivin, Simon-Xavier Lefebvre, Milan Panet-Gigon, Nicolas Patry

Dance Artists/Interprètes sur scène: David Albert-Toth, Joe Danny Aurélien, Simon-Xavier Lefebvre, Milan Panet-Gigon, Nicolas Patry

 

La vie attend, from Montreal’s Parts + Labour, begins with a man, mostly hidden behind a table that has been upended vertically, bragging in a bright spotlight about how fantastic his dance troupe is and how incredible the show we are about to see will be. This piece will “top all other performances,” he exclaims, “brace yourselves for the most vulnerability” and for “revelations” and “a new era.” This sounds funny and charming and also strange.

After the table comes down, five men, wearing casual jackets and slacks, begin to run about in between some tables and chairs onstage, to fight with pretend guns, as if we are watching a western or gangster movie. There is mayhem. “They will never take our freedom,” says one. This segment is madcap and fun. Slowly these interactions change into sports, into games, and dance, where unusual lifts—one man holding another like a plank, the held man with his hand over the other’s face— take good advantage of the male performers’ strength, and the piece morphs into stronger cooperation and dance, either with the entire troupe in synch, or in duets or trios.

The original bragging positioning is important, because the show, in which only male performers are included, slowly declines from heavy archetypical masculine uber competitiveness, into a more co-operative, gentle, nuanced engagement among the men as they dance in beautiful ensemble work, eventually gathering together and staring at us, the audience, as if we are intruders; and then they raise their arms and softly, softly fall back.

 

Glorious Fragility (excerpt)

Choreographed by Karine Ledoyen, with the performers

Dance Artists: Jason Martin, Simon Renaud

Design, manipulation and performative processing of video on stage: Andrée-Anne Giguère

Artistic Consultant and Repetiteur: Ginelle Chagnon

 

In this excerpt from Glorious Fragility, there are two performers seated at a table typing on a computer, and what they type is displayed in large letters on the back wall of the stage. Two other performers interact with and react to these texts, and later are reflected on this back wall.

The piece is built partly from the voices of 20 former dancers and choreographers, who speak, sometimes plaintively, sometimes joyously, sometimes philosophically, about what they miss about dancing. Their voices conjoin and separate, so that sometimes we can hear them clearly as individuals, and other times they are a muddy chorus of jumbled voices. The piece is broken into segments that follow from section headings projected on the wall: in “Entangled Bodies” the two male performers and the two women group together, one of the women holding a mic out for the men to speak. Another section is called “How much of yourself can you reveal?” and this invokes a different impulse in the physical expression of the dancers, as does “Abandon Yourself,” “How far can you push yourself?” and “VERTIGO.”

A very thoughtful piece, that makes one think about nostalgia and gesture and how we experience our vocations.

 

Kismet, Opposing Destiny

Choreographer/Composer/Dance Artist: Sashar Zarif

Dance Artists: Mateo Galindo Torres, Luke Garwood, Yiming Cai, Sebastian Oreamuno

 

Five male dancers in black tunics and black pants stand in a circle while Sashar Zarif in similar costume sings in Arabic and plays drum. The beat is hypnotic and the feeling is of a kind of ritual. I did not understand the words but the singing has the air of sacred places. The work, says the program, “is informed by the Sufi and Shamanic transformation ritual.”

As the piece continues, the five dancing men clap hands, stamp, circle around each other, re-arrange themselves and are in constant thrall to the lovely sounds Zarif is making. They form and re-form in different groupings, and the movement becomes faster and more frenetic.

Zarif is a hypnotic performer, and at one point leaves the percussion station to dance with the other men. When he returns to the drum and his singing, it is as if a journey has been completed. Kismet won the d:mic Audience Choice Award.

 

Four Works from Summerworks

August 8-10, 2019

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

Closer

A movement installation

Directed and Choreographed by Jenn Goodwin in collaboration with Sarah Doucet, and performers Lua Shayenne, Sarah Doucet, Brandy Leary, Ravyn Wingz, Anita Nittoly; Diana Reyes (aka Fly Lady Di); Francesca Chudnoff; Costumes by Sarah Doucet; Sound by Paul Shepherd & Valerie Calam/Company Vice Versa

Summerworks Festival Lab programming

Site-specific work: Laneway running south from Queen Street, Toronto

 

After a walk through the sunny afternoon from the Toronto Media Arts Centre on Lisgar Street south of Queen Street West, the audience members for Jenn Goodwin’s site specific piece, Closer, are seated outside, on stools or folding chairs at the corner where two Toronto laneways meet. Our view is a long one, maybe 300 yards to the south. Two lines of garages in varying states of repair, with colourful doors, line either side of a stretch of rough grey asphalt, defining the laneway and framing our view.

Music starts, an ambiguous but pleasant soundscape that implies ocean waves, shopping malls, wind, background music with a vague rhythm—an un-pin-downable sonic accompaniment by Company Vice Versa (Valerie Calam and Paul Shepherd). Suddenly, far down the laneway, a rectangle of pink smoke puffs thickly up, obscuring the view, and a line of performers somewhat magically appears, walking together toward us, all wearing white. The effect is impressive—the dancer/performers give off strength and presence, even at such a distance—and as vague as the music. This vision of far away women in white—united—are they a sports team? models? soldiers? bakery workers? brides?

It is the genius of Goodwin’s abstract structuring that the performers themselves offer a clinic in how we, as a culture, are used to defining people, particularly women, by searching through stereotypes—are they TV doctors? Reality TV stars? Nurses?

The women process through a variety of struggles and get closer to us, fighting off spirits, making their way  through more pink clouds, disagreeing with each other, being affectionate, struggling together, some falling, some going back to help them up.

Things change. The music is suddenly emitting, not just smoothly from the large, expensive, manufactured speakers, but from a range of small, distinctly different devices each dancer holds, and the music is no longer clear and silvery—now it has edge, grind, and hiss and buzz—it is not simple and homogeneous.

As they approach, the individual faces and expressions of the dancers become readable and present to us; their postures and attitudes and costumes are unique. They disappear out of the stereotype of distance, and emerge, each person, as themselves. A lovely, moving piece.

 

Fadeout

Choreographed and performed by Anne-Flore de Rochambeau; Rehearsal direction and artistic advice by Marijoe Foucher; Lighting design by Hugo Dalphond; Sound design by Hani Debbache

When Anne-Flore de Rochambeau appears, in silence, out of the pitch dark of the stage in Fadeout, we cannot see her face or upper body or arms. She is standing facing us, behind a metre-wide strip of harsh white neon that hangs above waist level at centre stage. She is wearing khaki jeans, her feet bare.

Slowly, she begins to writhe, her hands appearing in the light, looking pained, twisted, crooked, and her lower body movement is uncomfortably limited and seemingly controlled by the small area that is lit. It is as if she is pushing her way out of a container of electric light, or an imaginary egg of darkness. The powerful white light of the neon shines into the eyes of the audience, making it hard to look directly at Rochambeau, so that we are as discomfited watching as she is in moving.

Live bird sounds come out of the dark, and the neon light occasionally flashes off, allowing Rochambeau to appear again in a different spot, giving a sense of disjointed time. We hear thunder and rain sounds—as if Rochambeau’s body is trapped in an artificiality somehow isolated from nature.

Is she a person, or a creature, or an idea? Impossible to say, as the soundscape shifts to bombing and violence, and she very slowly extricates herself, twitching awkwardly, until we can see her entirely and she has attained independence from the small space where she was trapped.

She is crawling, extended, alive, with expressive face and delicate hands, free but under an onslaught of sound, metallic scraping and distressed voices—then she is upright, and all we hear is her breath. Fadeout is a show that seems simple, but that is emotionally complex and resonates with the audience long after it is over.

 

Des-Echoes

Choreography by Daniel Bear Davis and Caro Novella; Sound Sample by Gretchen Jude;
Sound Arrangement by Daniel Bear Davis;
Text by Karen Barard, from "On Touching -- the Inhuman That Therefore I am;" Special Thanks to Guillermo Gomez Peña, Saul Garcia Lopez, John Zibell and the cast of Glitchbody and Nanostalgia

Des-Echoes begins with a man in a mechanic’s or janitor’s long-sleeved overalls walking a stage that is empty except for a broom and another set of overalls hanging from a wire stage left. He moves to the sound of a woman’s voice speaking a poetic text about intimacy: “When two hands touch,” and “finding the otherness of oneself” in touch.

It slowly becomes clear that the man has another person grotesquely zipped inside his overalls—and as this person struggles to be free of this encapsulation, he seems to have four hands, then four feet, and two heads, in a humorous sequence where they roll on the floor, she pops out more, and they struggle to control their oddly connected and restrained two bodies, one suit and two wills, trying to decide what to do.

For a while he continues to lug her around, until they fully unzip and she emerges, half naked and surprised. The next sequences show the two people negotiating a relationship, as she dresses in the other pair of overalls. Work is a subtext of this piece: who does the physical and emotional work, and how does a pair of people manage their concerted activities?

Their separation, as they sweep with the broom, confront, comfort, dance around as divided into two entities, seems hard on them. The light is general and diffuse and changes little during this piece. The sound includes extensions of the same female poetic voice, and Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me,” to which they dance together. By the end of the piece she is tucked back inside his suit, with him.

Is this piece about work and drudgery, emotional and practical? About our own dual natures, the feminine and masculine in all of us, and how imbalance or division is problematic? The text is about touch and intimacy, perhaps about our own intimacy with ourselves.

 

Black Ballerina

Created and performed by Syreeta Hector; Movement Dramaturgy by Seika Boye; Outside Eye -- J. Adam Brown; Set Design by Wesley Mckenzie; Musical Composition by Zarnoosh Bilimoria

Before the performance of Black Ballerina begins in the intimate incubator theatre at the Theatre Centre, the show’s creator and performer, Syreeta Hector, speaks through the sound system, offering a moving, different kind of land acknowledgement, that describes her own mixed heritage comprising Mi’kmaq and other ancestry, and explaining the condition in which this work is shown.

Black Ballerina is a work in progress, presented as part of the Lab segment of Summerworks, and was currently about half (or so) of its finished length, at around 30 minutes.

This solo show proceeds in sections, each demarcated by a new costume, music and performance change. Hector is wearing a blond wig, in silence, when a British man’s voice begins to speak in a documentary way and documentary voice, discussing how octupuses manage to avoid predators. She is sitting motionless in a pool of light, while sounds of water flow around, then begins to dance on pointe. Slowly, a disco beat plays, and becomes more ominous, speeding up. She runs in place, and goes faster and faster, until off comes the blond wig and the music shifts.

Hector moves through a number of dance incarnations, from ballet to hip hop to urban to Indigenous, transforming fluidly and elegantly, with seeming effortless delicacy and power of these different forms, flowing with the changes in music. The final segment has a bittersweet charm that seems at the same time constricting and sad, as she dons a tutu and turns, balletically, while music box music plays.

Because Black Ballerina is shown in somewhat mysterious mid-process, it is impossible to guess at a solid read of where it is going, or might end up in its final form. Its inventiveness and sense of exploration and play, and Syreeta Hector’s beautiful, moving performance, make me very eager to see the finished work.

dance: made in Canada

 

Mrozewski Series

 

Habiter by Katia-Marie-Germain (Montreal)

Leftovers by Josh Martin (Vancouver)

 

Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto

August 15 - August 17 2019

 

Reviewed by Ted Fox

 

Habiter

Performers: Katia-Maria Germain and Marie-Gabrielle Menard

 

In Habiter, a woman sits at a white table-clothed breakfast table on which are a teapot, two cups, and some fruit. She appears to be awaiting a guest for tea.

 

Gradually, ever so slowly, she raises her arm, following which come a series of infinitesimal movements suspending us in time. When her guest arrives and sits down, her gestures mirror the other's. Both for example mime out pouring the tea, bringing cups to their lips and sipping.

There is a light on a tall stand to left-- all else is in darkness, with only this light to the side lighting one side of her face and the table. This chiaroscuro effect gives strong contrast sharpening the image like that of a Renaissance painting.

The light blinks on and off for seconds.This allows them to shift positions-- sitting, standing near and around the table. Creates blink of the eye tableaux of lives lived in the moment.

 

A work in which darkness permeates all. Where two lives exist in the moment frozen for a second or two in time. We the audience become suspended in timelessness. Meditating on the minute details of life we do not normally see. Hidden by the pace of our urban existence.

 

Like intruding on unspoken intimate moments as they are not conscious of us watching. We could be observing the creative process of a painter or a photographer.

 

 

Leftovers

Performer: Josh Martin

 

After the calm meditative piece, Habiter, Leftovers starts with a crescendo of deafening, high-pitched crashes of sound. We first see Josh Martin's body wracked and contorted in reaction to this.

 

The music soundscape becomes less intense but still very present, continuing throughout. His body reacting. Punctuated by periods of exhaustion.

 

The program notes state that this is an investigation of a body releasing and coming to terms with the states and sensations embedded within the muscles, tendons and organs. The dancer is doing so by entering his body and accessing them.

 

I feel that external sources are throughout impacting his body.

 

Also feel that this piece should have been shown prior to Habiter. The jarring irritating violent opening cancels out the calm meditative feel of the first piece.

 

Glimpse

Choreographer: Farrah Fernando

Dancers: Keita Fournier-Pelletier, Candace Irwin, Kelsey Woods and Angela Xu

Factory Theatre Mainspace

July 4 - 13 2019

 

Reviewed by Ted Fox

 

Glimpse has dancers constantly on the move. Bodies grasping, interlocking, pushing each other and extending their arms, hands and legs. An expression of their inner frustrations and helplessness.

 

They compare themselves to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, an indication of low self-esteem and longing for an identity.

 

One confronts another aggressively in body language and facial expressions that indicate a possessive thwarted attraction to the other. She wards off her advances pushing her away again and again.

 

A dancer tries to break through a blockade formed by the others. Their faces are stern and hostile. She pushes again and again. Eventually gets through in a space created under their bodies. Pushes through them like a birth. Gets out. Stands tall. Raises an arm in "I did it" victory.

 

One moves to the natural sounds of a wind. Trying to push forward against the gusts. Later others struggle in the same way.

 

The dancers wear mostly red. A vibrant affirmation counterpointed by the realities facing them.

 

A gripping production skillfully showing women confronting a society that constantly pushes them down.

 

 

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Petroleum: A Triptych

Director/Choreographer: Jeanne Lewis

Dancers: Jordan Alleyne, Keita Fournier-Pelletier, Sophia Hassenstein, Kaelin Isserlin and Ambre Orfao

Streetcar Crowsnest Guloien Theatre, Toronto

July 3 - 13 2019

 

Reviewed by Ted Fox


Petroleum: A Triptych, features students from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre.

 

The performers stand on chairs--two dancers stand erect, one slightly slumped. They stare at us with unnaturally clenched smiles on their faces. Slowly they slide downwards, ending up contorted and splayed out corpse-like on the chairs.

 

The first segment in this triptych begins with us participating in a support therapy group. The leader is represented by a dummy with an emoji head and smile sprawled in his chair. All are named Petroleum. We also wear IDs with this name.

 

As in all therapy groups, they talk about their feelings and problems. These range from feeling anxious about the climate, inability to communicate or relate to others. One even states that special things happen to special people (like him?). Gradually the words become indecipherable in a babel of noise.

 

A couple interacts in front of three knitted backdrops. One is brightly lit, giving the impression of a bush or shrub. A natural environment feel. Though they are constructed of plastic bags.

 

Towards the end they all appear to break loose for the first time, moving to the party song Cha Cha Slide. The music features a voice dictating instructions on what movements to make. This results in a regiment of dancers moving in unison to the pulsating beat embedded in their bodies.

 

Petroleum can be refined into fuel. Individuals are also capable of redefining themselves into their true individualistic identities.

 

The last images have them staring at us while clapping, willing us to acknowledge them as they do us, the masses. We follow suit. We are them and they are us.

 

Petroleum: A Triptych entertains us while addressing serious concerns on how we relate to others in our social media technology driven society. And does so with a sly tongue-in-cheek humour.