Reviews

We would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us!

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!

 
Lipstique
Creators:  Emily Law, Ashley Perez
 
Cast:  Jelani Ade Lam, Kristine Flores, Jasmyn Fyffe, Sze-Yang Lam Ade, Sarah Tumaliuan
Toronto Fringe 2017
Randolph  Theatre
 
 
Reviewed by Ted Fox
 
In Lipstique dancers from different cultural backgrounds rise up, question and break through the stereotype branding put on women in today's multicultural society.. 
 
It begins with Jasmyne Fyffe poising like a Vogue fashion model, wearing a silver sequined dress and ever so slowly turning like on a pedestal. Her movements stop, back facing the other dancers who walk toward her. They are dressed like everyday pedestrians, handbags dangling from their shoulders. She walks as one of them but so not.
 
Flip to the dancers sitting down putting on the makeup, the wigs, the clothing that will transform them into the ideal image of a women. When the music clicks in they rise up and dance their individual body languages coming out despite the facade.
 
The dance vocabularies consist of whacking, hip hop, house, voguing and a touch of martial arts to name a few. There is a disco feel to it with tracks from artists like Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer and Grace Jones, artists who have played a role in shaping women's herstories. I sense that the music choices inhabit and strengthen the dancers' expressive movements.
 
One segment hit home for me personally. In it there are references to the expression of gender within the body and allowing the masculine to come out. This triggered a scene from my past. Years ago I was walking down a street when two men approached me and told me to "walk like a man". Also when I was a child I took tap lessons and was quite good however nuns and bullying classmates forced me to quit. But that was then and this is now. I wish. It still happens to me today every now and then.
 
So for me Lipstique with its terrific high-octane choreography and spontaneity of movement was an emotional experience.
 
 
Wild/Walled
 
Producers: Alison Daley, Half Second Echo & Tracey  Norman 
Choreographers:  Alison Daley, Miles Gosse, Tracey Norman
 
Cast:  Justine Comfort, Sarah Dowhun, Miles Gosse, Nikolas Markakis, Denise Solleza
Toronto Fringe 2017
Al Green Theatre
 
 
Wild/Walled consists of three pieces by choreographers Tracey Norman, Miles Gosse and Alison Daley. These are linked together in exploring the theme of releasing the barriers that wall in and self-censor the natural instincts within our bodies
 
Norman's work comes first. Dancers clasp each other's hands which encircle an outsider and rope her in, imprisoning her.They build their walls with blocks. Then tear them down. Their body language with its constant hold and release patterns reflects their putting up barriers and then tearing them down and letting their natural humanity emerge. 
 
In Gosse's piece they line up side by side, create a wall with a large plastic sheet. Letting in no one in or out. An outsider comforts herself by clutching a balled-up plastic sheet. 
 
These choreographers are so attuned to each other's individual choreographic approaches that both weave together seamlessly. 
 
There is a slight break until choreographer Alison Daly shifts focus to a hospital lab where the dancers become like rats or hamsters in a research experiment. A researcher watches, collating their research patterns on a scale of 1-10. Stephanie Fromentin reacts going into seizure mode as if triggered by an electric current.
 

Wild /Walled is quite emotional and beautifully performed. A production that reflects how our society is affecting our mental and physical behaviour

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Montreal Fringe 2017 Reviews
Note: Interstellar Elder currently showing in the Toronto Fringe 2017

 

Interstellar Elder

Performer: Ingrid Hansen

Director: Katherine Greenfield

Choreographer: Britt Small

Montreal: La Chapelle Theatre, St Ambroise Fringe Festival 2017

Toronto: Theatre Centre, Toronto Fringe 2017, July 7-15 2017

 

Reviewed by Ted Fox

 

Interstellar Elder is an emotional and very funny multi-disciplinary physical theatre production.

 

An elderly female astronaut is cryogenically frozen among her sleeping human cargo-- which is us. They are orbiting earth until it heals from a climate related disaster that has made the earth uninhabitable.

 

She is woken early in this journey by the HAL voice of a robot monitor advising that she has been designated as custodian. She is assigned duties through this voice.

 

What it does not tell her until much later is that there were other custodians before her. After she has served her time she will be uploaded into a cloud and cremated. And we find out that when awakened, some of us could suffer permanent brain damage and loss of eyeballs.

 

The set looks like a child's bedroom—small, with bright summery colours like red, yellow and green. There is even a toy robot on a table. And a box of kleenex which will play a role. And she is wearing a brightly coloured spacesuit.

 

This cheerfully coloured set counterpoints the monotony and boring tasks she has to do throughout this century-long journey. One of her tasks is to take a brush and remove from our bodies the dust accumulated over the centuries. As she begins with those nearest to her, we the awake audience give sighs of relief, until we find the brush handle can be extended further and further and further.

 

There is a sequence in which her tasks are speeded up and repeated over and over, effectively conveying the unrelenting routine over the centuries.

 

Though Hansen is not at all elderly, her performance quickly allows us to suspend our disbelief. Maybe the longevity is due to unexpected freezing properties?

 

Various shades of emotions move across her face constantly, fully conveying her loneliness and desperation for human contact. At one point, in a poignant and sad moment, she takes one sleeper's hand and rests it on her face.

 

Hansen's skilled performance makes Interstellar Elder a very funny and emotional experience.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The Merkin Sisters

Creators and Performers: Ingrid Hansen & Stephanie Morin-Robert

St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival

La Chapelle Theatre

June 12-June 18 2017

Ingrid Hansen also performs in The Merkin Sisters, which is a very funny multi-disciplinary show with dance segments created and performed by Ingrid Hansen and Stephanie Morin-Robert. Underlying the comedy, it raises issues centered around the empowerment of women and ownership of their bodies.

 

Ashamed of their body parts and bodily functions. Obsessive about their image in relationship to others. At one point there is a song with the repeated lyrics: "My hair is mine. It is not a wig."

 

Also addressed is competition and control in relationships between women. One reclines regally, her body all furry. She masturbates through the hair of her vagina, looking suspiciously like a mouth. The other, reclining unseen behind her, springs up, asking: “Why am I always the vagina?”

 

Surreal images like this abound. In some their bodies are completely furry. One vomits baby hairballs, one of which gobbles up another. One clutches the mother’s fur, making squeaking momma sounds. The sisters go into the audience examining our heads and actually pull out hairballs.

 

A sister puts on a shirt. Puts her legs where arms should be. Her water breaks. Gives birth to a glove.

 

There are several dance pieces. Heads attached to a puppet doll while the legs do a step-dance routine. Another has them leaping and pushing a dust towel in a circle. One tells us: “This is an example of contemporary dance.”

 

Morin-Robert's facial expressions are grim and pouty. Those of Hansen are more soft and fragile.

 

Thoroughly enjoyable hysterically funny physical theatre with a touch of dance.
 

 

 

The Return (Il Ritorno)

Creators Yaron Lifschitz and Quincy Grant and The Circa Ensemble

Composition/Musical Direction/Arrangements  Quincy Grant

Acrobats  Circa Ensemble

Spotlight Austalia Series

Canadian Stage 

Bluma Appel Theatre

May 3-7 2017 

 

Reviewed by Ted Fox

The Creator of The Return is Yaron Lifschitz. He was inspired by Monteverdi's baroque opera Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria, about the sufferings of Ulysses and his return to his homeland after surviving the Trojan Wars, and also by Primo Levi's account of the horrors of Auschwitz.

Circa is a circus company that tackles a serious political issue with this show. It goes against the traditional view of a circus as focusing on exciting daredevil aerobic entertainment featuring exciting trapeze work, impressive animal acts and scarily funny clowns.

The action takes place in front of a metal wall that spreads across the stage. It is a barrier representing a refugee camp inhabited by those who had to flee their wartorn homelands. The metal wall also suggests the hellish cargo holds that got them there.

The acrobats play very realistic characters. There is a Waiting for Godot feel to the piece, in the sense of awaiting the unspeakable. Their eyes are wide open in fright and horror.

It's as if they are caught in post-traumatic memories playing over and over in their bodies. They scurry about like ants with their homes destroyed. Trying to get out. Climbing the slippery walls. Getting to the top but sliding down. To face us looking at them. Caught in the blazing lights of a car, like kangaroos about to be slaughtered

The physicality is extreme. The spontaneous bursts of energy. The flailing of hands and arms. Death-defying gravity movements that punctuate the piece like bullets. Bodies pile up like twisted and contorted corpses,

The males have a dominant feel with their weight and muscular builds. The women seem much less so. Yet one holds two men on her shoulders. Another stands solidly atop a pyramid of male bodies. One walks on the men's heads.

Body language is also evoked in dance vocabularies. When women are hurled across the stage and caught, they flip upwards and over the catcher, slide upside down, flip erect and run. All at very high speed. Its like watching Louise Lecavalier when she was in La La Human Steps.

Really effective is one woman who, hanging in a stirrup above the stage, does grotesque contortions ending up hanging like meat.

The music composed and arranged by Quincy Grant is performed live by four musicians and opera singers Kate Howden and Benedict Nelson. It is a blend of Grant's own compositions, Monteverdi and folk song.They are placed on the right side of the stage. We are always aware of their presence. It gives the impression of two different classes side by side. The well-heeled and those who are not. Occasionally the musicians watch what is happening but stay distanced from them and their situation.

Featuring compelling circus and dance body language, The Return effectively addresses the traumatic suffering of those displaced from their homelands. And illustrates how circus can be thought-provoking while entertaining. 

****

Meeting

Choreography, Direction, Performance: Antony Hamilton

Instrument Design & Construction, Composition, Performance: Alisdair Macindoe

Spotlight Australia

Canadian Stage

Bluma Appel Theatre

April 26-30 2017 

 

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Choreographer/Dancer Antony Hamilton performs Meeting with non-dancer Alisdair Macindoe.

They explore the robotization of their body language via internalizing the percussion instrumentation of 62 robotic pencils attached to levers on wooden blocks programmed to act as hammers tapping the floor. Macindoe designed and constructed these bots and programmed their compositions.

They commence by standing and making various gestures with their hands and arms that progressively become faster and more complicated. They isolate the muscles in their arms, neck and torso and tighten and release them.. These movements occur during the gaps of each beat. Their faces are devoid of expression. There is though a feeling of intense concentration emanating from them.

Hamilton states in the creators' notes that they employ "a complex counting sequence as a score for phrasing." They reach a point where they count numbers aloud, resembling somewhat sound poets in performance.

The mood changes when each of them spreads their legs and lift them one at a time in sync over the bots. Released from the circle they take on b-boy movements in slow motion that are human and fluid.

They then slowly replace the instruments into little groups. Placing a metal disk under them including an old pipe for one of them. The groups reflect a human orchestra where the musicians are seated according to their instruments.

After they leave we are treated to a five minute recital. The reconfiguration gives a totally different textured soundscape.

A thought-provoking, intensely performed illustration of human bodies reprogrammed by technology. Even an orchestra is replaced by robots.

 

 

Baseline/Multiform

Baseline/Multiform

Heidi Strauss (adelheid) and Amanda Acorn

Baseline: choreographed and performed by Heidi Strauss

Sound and projection design by Jeremy Mimnagh

Lighting by Kaitlin Hickey

Multiform: choreographed and performed by Amanda Acorn

Lighting design by Paul Chambers

The Citadel, Toronto

March 31-April 1, 2017

REVIEWED BY BEVERLEY DAURIO

Baseline/Multiform is an ambitious program produced by Heidi Strauss’ adelheid and Amanda Acorn, and presented at The Citadel Theatre in Toronto. Both performances use experimental audience arrangements, eschewing the theatre’s usual banked seats on risers, with viewers on the same level as the performers.

Heidi Strauss’s Baseline begins with the audience randomly placed, sitting, slouching or standing around the undemarcated flat theatre. We do not know where our attention should go. The light is pale but we can see clearly. People try to figure out what’s going on, and eventually the room settles, as Strauss, on the floor, dressed in a formal modern dance costume of black sleeveless top and cropped black pants, travels around the room slowly, approaching different people gently and touching or greeting them softly, gaining verticality. This has the effect of grounding the audience and focusing energy both on Strauss as dancer and on the process of her invitation to us as participants. She climbs, so that she is standing in a window well very high up in the wall. She asks for help to get down, and receives it from an audience member.

This is the first of several segments that form the piece. Strauss tells us that she is “thinking about you right now” and “our first encounter.” She thanks us for “the situation.” We are treated to large projected “selfies” Strauss took, projected on the wall, and a commentary on how uncomfortable selfies can be to look at; she shares a strange experience she had, seeing someone who looked like her, in a German train station.

Next is an exercise in semi-dark, where audience members gather around a long diagonal of light on the floor, facing each other in lines, disperse, then gather again for a re-try. In the re-try, Strauss makes her way, dancing in the light between the two lines of audience members, speaking here and there to people, thanking the young man who helped her down from the window well, encouraging, noticing, and present. In the next segment— a game show with an ’80s disco theme— Strauss invites us to pretend to be a different audience, and includes the semi-ritualistic unlooping and spreading of light strips, and the opening of a bottle of champagne, sharing it around the audience. The projections and soundscape change to a mechanical uproar, and Strauss, in the most dance-like section of the piece, performs a robotic, exploratory few minutes that contrast sharply with the humourous and friendly sharing that surrounds it, and especially with the next segment that follows, about ecology, the planet and our fragile existence.

The lighting and sound beautifully support every movement of the piece. The mood shifts are magical and make the kind of sense that dreams make— except that this is a consciously constructed experience. Underlying themes, from daily life to high culture, are subtle: we experience elements of a yoga class (including closing our eyes when asked to, re-opening them, and lying on the floor, breathing, at the end of the show), of corporate team-bonding exercises, of a family keeping faith with a father whose hearing and health are failing. Gently and circuitously— and courageously— Strauss informs us that we create situations and our ways of dealing with them. There are moments when Strauss is more direct, suggesting that “we” (“the audience”) have been “sitting in rooms for 25 years”— and all that that asks and implies. Societal structures are good to question, even when, as with Strauss leading the room, there is mutual trust.

As a performer, Strauss has a commanding presence, a precise and elegant fluidity as a dancer, and an excellent practised voice. She wears a mic and speaks to us through the different phases of the work as they emerge, in her effective, casual and deeply emotional poetry and narratives. The projections of large images— from silvery mathematical formulae to a country highway to verdant forest to words and phrases— punctuate and enhance the performance. Strauss has a rare capacity for melding the present, the philosophical, and the personal, in an entertaining, moving, impelling and thought-provoking hybrid of writing, dance and theatre.

***

“Multiform” is a term applied by art critics to the transitional phase of Mark Rothko’s painting, between earlier, more image-populated work (think the broken up and colourful abstract elements in Kandinsky or Chagall) and his mature, spare style of stacked, soft-edged rectangles of bold colour. Acorn draws on Rothko’s ideas and theory in this piece. Its particular focus on movement also calls to mind the photography of Eadward Muybridge. The lighting does not change. The soundscape is pulsing and mechanical. Acorn performs naked, both strong and vulnerable, present and not present. For much of the performance, her eyes are covered by her long hair, which hangs over her face and swings with her movements.

This is an intellectual show. It is not a show about prettiness, nor is it a show about dreaming. As Acorn says in her program note on the piece, “a singular body is both mechanism and magician.” Acorn becomes a human clockwork. Her limbs and body expand and contract, expand and contract, moving just a little further across the floor, arms angular, legs angular, her body curled around what might be an idea. She turns and returns to positions as if her spine is a fulcrum.

She pivots on the ground. We feel for her skin pressing and turning against the not entirely clean floor. She works very hard and her intensity marks a line in time. Her body moves with a measured continuous force. Viewers, on chairs in a semicircle around her, experience Acorn’s mild harsh repetition that seems neither compulsive nor driven. Rothko sought a life force, attempting to capture passion, life, and energy, in abstract colour shapes. It is the power of the colours, how they are contained, and how they interact that concentrates their effect. The remarkable discipline of Acorn’s work refocuses the viewer on a similar limitation, as she circles to the same spot where she began. She iterates the uniqueness of each human body, the circle of time, and the effort we expend in movement. Acorn herself becomes a propelled human heart, beating, making us think, making us want to move out of stillness.

 
 
Medea
 
Director: Marshall PynKoski
Choreographer: Jeanette Lajeuness Zingg
Conductor: David Fallis
Set Designer: Gerard Gauci
Dancers: Atelier Ballet
 
Opera Atelier
Elgin Theatre
April 22-29 2017
 
Reviewed by Ted Fox
 
Medea is  a gripping and visually arresting Opera Atelier production of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's opera, Medea.
 
The opera begins after Medea and Jason flee to Corinth. She has murdered her father and enabled Jason to capture The Golden Fleece. She is obsessively and madly in love with Jason. After all she has done for him, Jason betrays her for the hand of Creuse, daughter of King Creon. Creon deceives Oronte, Prince of Argos, also promising him Creuse in marriage, while doing the same to Jason. Creon banishes Medea on the grounds that it is the will of the people.
 
All these circumstances combine for Medea, including living in a foreign country unsupported by those around her, with their plotting, lies and betrayals. Her internalized rage will eventually erupt, transforming her into a supernatural entity. Being a sorceress, she calls up demons to help her. They drive Creon to suicide. She saturates the golden gown of Creuse with poison and murders her. Then Medea slaughters Jason's children.
 
The characters circle, move in on, and confront each other throughout, all with their egocentric agendas. Conflict intensifies; they are caught in the web of the gods.
 
Soprano Peggy Kuka Dye gives an intense performance as Medea. She sings her lyrically tragic harmonic arias with force and passion. Her physical movements become more and more frenzied. When she brings Jason to his knees, we feel like she is clutching him like a devouring mantis. Dye forcefully conveys the disintegration of her humanity.
 
Tenor Colin Ainsworth creates a not very sympathetic character in Jason. One who is arrogant, and a manipulative controller. At the end there is a sadness expressed in his bereavement and isolation. 
 
The only likeable character is Love, who descends in a golden chariot, a lovely young woman delightfully cementing the relationship of Creuse and Oronte. She leaves pleased with herself. Happy with getting them together. So it would appear. However there is emblazoned on the chariot's side a heart pierced by an arrow.  Perhaps she is mischievous or malicious, enjoying the after-effects of her matchmaking.
 
Choreographer Jeanette Lajeunese Zingg recreates dance styles of the seventeenth century with flair and beauty. The dancers come from a variety of backgrounds, including contemporary dance and ballet. Here they play Corinthians in Creon's court, and all the demons and furies. 
 
The female dancers at one point lure Creon to his fate by becoming seductive ghostly phantoms in white dresses with bands across their eyes. The men portray the guards. There are riveting choreographed sword fights, including one where under Medea's spells they turn on each other. All the dancers  leap about in black leotards as black divinities and furies.
  
Set designer Gerard Gauci uses painted backdrops of buildings and settings enveloped in mist and fog. One scene has a building imploding into itself. A tree fully leafed becomes defoliated and skeletal in a burnt-out apocalyptic landscape. Another has a fragmented unhinged look, reflecting Medea's state of mind.
 
When Medea's internalized rage erupts like a forest fire, destroying Corinth, the effect is created by a spectacular use of billowing red satin. The skilled lighting design gives the illusion of moving flames.
 
This production has a contemporary feel to it. It has all the ingredients of a soap opera melodrama cum horror parody. Films like Fatal Attraction and Carrie come to mind. And the BBC TV series The Musketeers.
 
Director Marshall Pynkoski  has made  a thoroughly engrossing, highly entertaining show that is strikingly visual and beautifully sung, filled with humour and pathos.