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!

 

Humans by Circa

Artistic Director: Yaron Lifschitz

A Civic Theatres Toronto presentation

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto

Friday, November 9, 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox & Beverley Daurio

 

During interviews when Evidance was a radio show airing on CIUT, many dancers talked about being in the moment and trusting/relying on the others for intricate movements that could maybe end in serious falls or other body injuries. In their show Humans, CIRCA tests their performers to their physical and mental limits. Any mistiming or slip could have serious consequences, which at times in some shows does happen.

 

In Humans, Yanon Lifshitz, CIRCA’s Aartistic Director, blurs the line between movement theatre, contemporary dance, circus and clown.

 

The show begins as we enter the brightly lit theatre. One by one the male and female performers do mundane tasks and then walk off-stage. They fold and swap their clothes, putting them on or undressing to reveal their costumes. In so doing they break down the barriers between their everyday and performing personas, as if they are like us, as they show us their regular selves. As the lights dim, all ten come onstage and slide, crash and spin across the floor, leaping over each other with acrobatic delight.

 

With awesome physicality and stamina they stack themselves atop each other. In some acts of extreme lift and balance, a body’s weight is sustained by one holding another up with only one hand. One woman stands with her back to a man and backflips up and over onto his shoulders. Another woman walks atop the lined up men’s heads casually, relaxed as if she does it every day. Another woman curls up and rolls over them. One woman is held aloft by two men, one on each side suspending her, creating a bridge between them.

 

Bodies interlock in all sorts of sculptural shapes, like living building blocks. The performers are sometimes all on stage, tumbling and rolling, sometimes in solo, sometimes in duet, and sometimes in different configurations. This gives the show another level of rhythm of presence and absence, almost like a street scene over the course of a few hours.

 

There is hand balancing throughout, with awesome demonstrations of core strength, upper body strength and flexibility. At one point all of the performers cooperate to pile people four high; at another, the strongman of the group balances five troupe members on his shoulders and neck. There are also daring dismounts from pyramids of performers, and a beautiful sense of flow in the piling up and using the entire width and depth of the stage.

 

 

In a hilarious scene of contagious effort, the performers try to kiss their own elbows, with varying degrees of near success. Again, there is a line drawn between the kind of extreme physical ability that they are demonstrating, and normal human limitation, with silliness and humour.

 

A man pulls and manipulates a woman, throwing her about like a rag doll; he hangs her upside down in front of him, faces with deadened expressions. A woman trapezist bends over and locks and unlocks her pretzel shaped body.

 

A woman comes out and, in a microsecond, falls from being upright to extreme splits on the floor, legs splayed out. She then does a variety of moves that must be quite painful arranging and re-arranging her legs, trying to get up, falling. We really feel her pain. She looks at us with disbelief at what her body is doing, and gauging audience reaction,

 

In one section, a woman literally jabs her hand into her partner's mouth, forcibly trying to shape it into a smile.

 

The music varies and is astutely selected, creating moods expressed in the segments. In many tunes the lyrics are very relevant.

 

The tempo varies. There are quiet scenes, some in slow motion, that evoke sadness and emptiness. There is a poetic feeling to these moments, many of them dimly lit.

 

The minimalist set design—an empty stage with only occasional dropped silks and trapeze—conveys loneliness and isolation, and creates powerful contrast with the performers’ human forms.

 

Humans is a highly entertaining and very gripping production rife with humour that conveys individuals reaching out in desperation to bond with each other rather than be alone. Creating building blocks in their effort to survive. The choreography has a mathematical, geometric feel to it.

 

 

Opera Atelier: Acteon & Pygmalion

Director: Marshall Pynkoski

Choreographer: Jeanette Lajeunesse Zingg

Dance Artists of Atelier Ballet

Elgin Theatre, Toronto
Oct. 25-Nov. 3, 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zngg celebrates 33 years as choreographer/dancer with Opera Atelier, a company founded by her and her partner in life, director Marshall Pynkoski. This latest production features a double bill of short operas, Charpentier's Acteon and Rameau's Pygmalion.

I have seen practically all of the shows staged by Opera Atelier. And Zngg consistently choreographed movements faithful to the originals, while evoking her personal variations. Her dancers come from a variety of backgrounds, including contemporary, modern and classical dance. Zngg always integrates them into colourful tapestries of fluid seamless movements. A joy to watch.

Charpentier's Acteon is a a pastoral work centred around Acteon and his hunter friends, setting out on what promises be the best hunt ever. It certainly turns out to be a memorable one.

Acteon spies Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, and her nymphs, bathing in a woodland pool. Diana is so enraged she turns him into a stag. His friends wonder where he is, only to discover that the stag they just arrowed to death was their friend-- now, horror of horror, dismembered by the dogs. Very appropriate for Hallowe'en.

This a relatively quiet and humorous piece before this sudden event. There is always, though, an undercurrent of dread.

The second half begins with a brief excerpt from Inception, a work in progress featuring co-creators dancer Tyler Gledhill as Eros and violinist Edwin Huizinga. A sort of prequel to Pygmalion, Inception is shown here as the world comes to life from nothingness. Composer/violinist Edwin Huizinga is joined by choreographer/dancer Tyler with red slatted wings sprouting from his shoulders. Gledhill dances in and out around the musician. A beautiful imagistic and haunting excerpt of a work that once completed will be Opera Atelier's first commissioned work. A perfect segue to Eros' creation of Pygmalion.

Tenor Colin Ainsworth's richly textured voice eloquently incarnates Pygmalion. He falls in love with the sculpture he has just created. He conjures up Venus to breathe life into it. Soprano Meghan Lindsay as the statue Galatee manages to stay frozen with not a quiver of movement for probably about ten minutes before she is brought to life. Really convincing as a statue.

This piece pulsates with life, taking on a colouful celebration featuring ten segments of superb dance throughout, seamlessly blending dance from different time periods, including 18th century and contemporary. Strikingly rich colour in the costumes with confetti falling vaudevillian style onto the perfomers.

In Acteon, set and costume designer Gerard Gauci employs subdued coloured backdrops with scrims and a trompe d'oeil effect, creating an illusion of reality particularly in the bathing nymphs scene. For Pygmalion he creates a phantasmagorical dream-like space, a chiaroscuro of light and shade. A Magritte-like look of a world suspended in clouds.

These two works make for a sparkling charming, visually rich and highly entertaining evening.

Battleground (Mille Batailles)

Choreographed by Louise Lecavalier

Performed by Louise Lecavalier & Robert Abubo (dance) and Antoine Berthiaume (live music)

Fou Glorieux in the Torque Contemporary Dance Series

Fleck Dance Theatre, Toronto

October 5-6, 2018

 

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

Louise Lecavalier is a force of nature. When she enters the stage she changes it; the energy of the space gathers force in her and radiates out as fascinating and elegant movement, that is at the same time deeply expressive and nearly impossible in its precision and focus.

Mille Batailles, French for a thousand battles or fights, is the original title of this Fou Glorieux production that was first mounted in 2016. At once avant-garde and accessible—the driving beat of Antoine Berhiaume’s score, performed live on stage to the left of the set, keeps the audience members’ hearts racing and bodies rivetted as the spectacle unfolds. Berthiaume plays guitar filtered and extended by various digital manipulations, including loops, sampling and synthesizer, so that he produces a deep range of sound and rhythm, from bell-like tones to percussive brushings, from moody funk to streaming hard rock.

The set is dominating and spare at the same time—a giant abstraction of a wall at the back is built of 4 x 8 foot sheets of plywood that form a two-storey backdrop; these shapes are echoed in the grey flooring that is broken by lighting into 4 x 8 foot shapes. Their rectangularity forms a constant field of straight-lined frames, hard and clear, against which Lecavalier’s body, in almost constant motion, forms human vulnerable shapes. The lighting continues and extends this shape respectfully—outlines, lines and rectangles, in white, grey and mild red appear and disappear as the sections and moods change.

Dressed in a technical zipped black hoodie and metallic carbon coloured soft wide bottom pants, Lecavalier begins by occupying the stage with action—shaking her hands in perfect isolation, quick head to profile and back, arms out in sudden perfectly straight lines, in triangles, while engaging in swift footwork delicate as embroidery, almost floating across the stage floor in lines and diagonals: fast, magical, exhilarating. The forms sometimes resemble animals, or birds; Lecavalier takes the shape of life.

A few stops are built into the piece; Lecavalier sits on a chair beside Berthiaume and drinks water, studying the stage.

During one such pause, Abubo is conjured onto the right side of the set. Bulkier, also dressed in a dark hoodie and trousers, he is ballast, balance, male contrast to Lecavalier’s powerful femininity, a become-material alter-ego, a partner, a competitor. He shadows her, lifts, dances the masculine; and they engage in various pas de deux full of flexible motoring, verticality and dream shapes—until the end, when she carries him, and they are, in a way, reunited off to the side of the stage, sitting, looking at us in amazement at what they have wrought, as the lights go down.

Were they two halves of the same person, pulled in different directions? The essence of male and female? Competitors? Partners? Though this is deeply physical dance, it is also philosophical and intellectual—its demands and challenges are beautiful and multiple. What are humans capable of; what extremes of discipline, control, elegance and joyful expression can be extracted from the human body—what is possible? The generous and exquisite choreographer and dancer Louise Lecavalier shows us.

 

A Congruence of Arrivals

Cross My Heart and Hope

Choreographed by Denise Fujiwara

Created with and performed by Sylvie Bouchard

Music by Phil Strong

at yes of day

Choreographed by Yvonne Coutts (in close collaboration with the performers)

Performed by Marc Boivin and Sylvie Bourchard

Produced by BoucharDanse at the Winchester Street Theatre

September 27-29, 2018

 

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio

 

The two works for BourcharDanse in A Congruence of Arrivals —by Denise Fujiwara and Yvonne Coutts— are very different; this creates an extremely wide aesthetic and emotional range for performers to explore, and for the audience’s experience.

The title of the first piece, Cross My Heart and Hope, is a truncated version of the children’s saying: “Cross my heart and hope to die.” Fujiwara explores the loss of childhood innocence to abuse, centering in Bouchard’s portrayal of a viscerally affecting, vulnerable, beseeching and isolated spirit child. Bouchard and Fujiwara have chosen an indirect approach—none of the violence or abuse is described or re-enacted; nothing is made specific about the girl’s experiences—and this induction is all the more powerful because it draws us inside girl spirit’s attempts to communicate what she of course does not explicitly or literally understand.

Barefoot, dressed in a simple sleeveless white tunic and culottes, Bouchard first appears as a pale glowing light in dark silence; as the stage brightens with mottled woodland patterns, she is lying on the ground, lost in a forest, and rising or waking up, alone.

Bouchard’s performance is sensitive, delicate and profound; she captures pain and limitation in slow walking, fearful arm and leg movements and an internalized lack of curiosity that feels strange and hurtful in a child; she expresses hope and a desire to heal in flashes of mild delight, but these moments are fleeting. Bouchard is utterly believable as a little girl, a wraith-like presence, a spirit, and a woman’s own battered child-self living in the present in memory. The score and lighting enhance the piece at every moment, moving with Bouchard and supporting the emotional expression of her performance.

The second work in the evening, “at yes of day,” is choreographed by Yvonne Coutts with Bouchard and Marc Boivin. While the first piece is unrestrainedly emotionally pulling from its first seconds, “at yes of day” is a more distanced and even arch piece. The audience members are asked under full house lights if we would like to see the piece from the beginning, or if we would prefer to see it from three quarters of the way through, then ending with the actual beginning. This causes some questioning and interesting mild stress for the audience members, who are now voting and involved and responsible to a degree for how a piece we haven’t yet seen should unfold. The vote is that the piece should start three quarters of the way through, and Boivin sits on a kind of rolling cart close to the floor, and wraps Bouchard around him.

During the course of the piece, Boivin and Bouchard seem to go through days and days in relationship to each other, to the world, to their work. They walk, they walk backwards, they engage in complex pas de deux with difficult sideways lifts. They change their clothes several times; they change their moods. They observe and engage, and through most of this they are in full light, which conveys a sense of transparency and openness, while at the same time their interactions, from the friendly to the amorous to bickering, show the constant complexity of being with other humans.

The movement is casual, informal, loose-limbed but intense and purposeful; there is a lot of strolling, backing across the space, diagonals. There is a fine sense of play and the comedic, beginning with the relaxed audience vote during the opening, and continuing with the set-up—a voice talks about doing a story conference “about disturbance, resistance” and suggests “taking out the goats”— and other small funny awkward moments add depth to the piece’s explorations.

Whether they are tussling as part of a sudden loud argument that is intimate but cool, ignoring each other as they follow different lines across the stage, or changing their costumes in opposite corners, Bouchard and Boivin maintain a tensile connection that is at times delicate and other times loving and bound, as they live inside the urgent soundscape, or in silences that are shapes inside the soundscape.

Bouchard and Boivin are impeccable, engaged with each other and the audience in a most natural, organic way, that is nevertheless perfectly performative. I don’t think I’ve seen another post-modernist-leaning piece that was able to keep the art and dance narrative present and clear, but sweetly undercut the Authority of Art at the same time. Very clever, moving and intriguing.

 

 

 

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.