Older & Reckless #40-- Moonhorse Dance Theatre

Older & Reckless #40

Artistic Director: Claudia Moore

Moonhorse Dance Theatre in association with Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto

November 10-11, 2017


Founder and artistic director Claudia Moore has been mounting the Older & Reckless series of shows, featuring older dancers and choreographers, for seventeen seasons now. In a relentlessly youthful world, especially in the physical arts like dance, Older & Reckless provides an outlet and showcase of the work and bodies of older dancers, and demonstrates many things about beauty, intelligence, love of art and expression and many ineffable elements in the process.

Older & Reckless #40 was constructed of two acts with an intermission; each of the acts consisted of a longer work (or excerpt) bracketed by two shorter works, for a total of six pieces for the evening.

“Tell Everyone” is a moving tribute to a young Portland, Oregon, man who stood up for young Muslim girls against a white supremacist who then killed him. As he lay dying, Taliesin Meche asked the stranger comforting him to “Tell everyone on this train I love them.” Peter Chin has created a joyous work that is less programmatic than symbolically resonant with the real events. Five professional and a score of amateur dancers fill the stage with the train passengers, forming and reforming into duets and groups to the music of traditional Tibetan and Papua New Gunea folk songs.

“Ils m’ont dit” (loosely translatable as “They told me”) is choreographed and performed by Jane Mappin and Daniel Firth. It is a major stand-alone piece with precise, varied movement, partnering and duets and solos, all reflecting struggles with mental health and celebrating the dignity of sufferers. Dressed in simple black, the performers execute difficult and fine movements with precision and elegance, even while clearly demonstrating pain and the hard work of seeking mental health.

Solo One was choreographed and danced by Heidi Latsky to propulsive music by Chris Brierly. Latsky is isolated in light that is not a spotlight but seems to seek her out and find her—she is dressed in a sleevless black top and loose black pants. The focus is on the movement of arms, out and around her body, with and against the music, twining and loosening, as she seems to shimmer in place, yet to be moving toward us at the same time. Elegant and  sensual, Latsky slowly travels toward the centre front of the stage. There is something commanding and mesmerizing about this performance, despite its apparent simplicity.

“In Two Days a Man Can Change” is an excerpt from a longer dance-theatre work of the same name by Lesandra Dodson, based on writings by the mystery/thriller writer Elmore Leonard. It has a desert, cowboy motif, and is quite text heavy. The two performers, Ric Brown and Darryl Tracy, carry and evolve the masculine/macho competition and symbolic struggle of the two characters with panache. This work has a lovely capacity to be funny and dark at the same time, as the two men begin to seem as if one is good and one is evil; they threaten to kill each other; and then it seems that they might even be two sides of one person. The desert (projected on the back of the stage) also serves multiple symbolic functions—as stereotyped masculinity is often played out without nuance or emotion allowed. This is a sharp and effective exploration.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you” is an emotional, longer solo by Sashar Zarif, and is based on a quotation from Rumi, exploring the past lives we carry within ourselves. Zarif, in traditional Middle Eastern garb, is a powerful dancer and performer whose movements, from twirling to complex characterological body extensions and facial expressions evoke his past selves with elan and energy.

“Abiding” is a beautiful short balletic work, choreographed by Matjash Mrozewski for Evelyn Hart, former prima ballerina for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Simple, moving and emotionally complex, the piece begins with Hart sitting, dressed in a long, formal white gown by Anne Armit, in a chair to the back and left of the stage. When she begins to dance, in long, flowing movements that could be those of clouds or swans, it is as if she is freed to strength and flight, and she frees us in turn, watching. The formal music by Handel is perfect for the operatic and dramatic mood, and lifts the dancer and fills the space that could be, by turns, a street, a garden, or a ballroom. When Hart returns to the chair at the end of the piece, her stillness raises questions: was the dance her dream of moving? Did we only imagine her moving? Or is she showing us how to be free of stillness, in many ways, to leave the sedentary, get up from our real and symbolic chairs and enter life freely? This is a gorgeous, delightful work.

Moore has put together another powerful show. Wisdom and thoughtfulness permeate these pieces. There is more arm work than leg work, less extremity of physical display, and generally the choreography is less taxing. At the same time, it brings other qualities: a quiet sense of perseverance, and a depth of emotional expression that comes from decades of dedicated practice. Older & Reckless #40 was a moving and fascinating cornucopia of enjoyments.