Summerworks-- The Personal and the Universal-- Heidi Strauss, Kate Alton and Luke Garwood


For Me?

Choreography: Heidi Strauss

Performers: Luke Garwood and Kate Alton

Crooked Figure Dances

(Site specific: outdoors)




Near Queen and Dufferin, in the airy front lobby of the Pia Bouman School of Dance, the audience gathers. We mill and wonder. It is late afternoon and the sun is shining. Not knowing where Heidi Strauss’s piece For Me? will take place adds a sense of mystery, which is heightened when we are handed programs that double as maps and head out into the bright day.

The walk, through a residential neighbourhood, is pleasant and purposeful; at last we troop up concrete stairs, and it becomes clear where we are going: across the street to a small, almost secret parkette at Brock and Cunningham.

The audience settles on chairs set in rows on the lawn, facing a 40-foot high brick wall that forms a backdrop; the grassy verge before us is transformed into an outdoor stage. To the right, a small electronic computer/sound table is manned by choreographer Heidi Strauss, and in front of the audience, Kate Alton and Luke Garwood, the performers, appear, welcoming us.

Alton and Garwood are clothed casually in long pants and t-shirts, and, with no risers, they are on the same level as we are, framed as human-sized by the mass of russet and brown brick wall behind them. As in many of Heidi Strauss’s works, speech is an important and much present element, and their voices carry naturally to us in the outside air.

The soundscape is a mixture of their voices, music, and ambient sound—at one point during the show a GO train goes by, adding dynamic grit and drama, and we can hear birds, the rustling of trees, cars, and children in the near distance. Garwood and Alton speak to us and to each other, in dialogue and monologue—about gifts and how complicated they can be, about the past, their presence in the space we are actually in, with emotion and openness. They make the safe little corner of green space, carved out of the city, seem a gift to all of us: a feeling that is very much like the essence of For Me?, celebrating the present moment with beauty and delicacy, under the sky, among the houses.

The movement is intermittent, suddenly aggressive, then casual, then elegant and dancy. The dancers occupy the space, not with ownership, but with grace and humility—whether on the ground, or standing with their backs against the brick wall— engaging us with anecdotes, with charm, and purpose. Alton and Garwood acquit themselves with attentive complexity and intertwined synchronicity, working with and from each other in a powerfully connected way.

Heidi Strauss often makes elliptical narrative dance-theatre pieces of equal parts gossamer and steel, the audience trusting her to go forward, enjoying the unfamiliarity of the use of movement, and the way the story builds. For Me? is a gem—a kind of ultimate site-specific work, capturing just that perfect touch of irony to keep it miles away from sentimentality, while being absolutely touching and moving.