Dance in Grand style
By Carey Franklin
Gone are the days when you could walk into a dance performance and watch
a story unfold for an hour and a half and then leave with a feeling of comfort and closure. Thankfully, these days will not be missed.
The Toronto Dance Theatre began its season with a performance at The Grand Theatre this past Saturday. Canadian Christopher House, artistic director and choreographer, literally took the audience's breath away. His composition of movement, music and spirit required intense reading from the viewer. This 16-person company has members from across Canada, the United States and Asia. The group itself has been around since 1968 and House joined the collective team in 1980.
The first movement of the evening, Four Towers, evoked a primitive, almost evolutionary theme. The choreography was simple and relied more on the repetition of steps rather than complex sequences. There was a fluidity in the movement; where one dancer began, another would finish. These intertwined interludes created a feeling of oneness, which was also mirrored in the costumes. By putting all the dancers, male and female, in plain white shirts and black skirts, a uniformity emerged. Every change in the movement was recognizable: a stream of exactitude, showing the beauty and the ugliness of the human form and soul.
Another theme common to all the dances, was the acknowledgment of silence. Rather than treat the silence in a piece of music as a pause, House allowed the dancers to continue their masterpiece of movement. As well, the transitions from one group to the next were seamless. This constant attention to the fluidity of the performance is what gave the dance its soul and spirit.
The third movement was a solo performed by House himself submerged into a Buddhist monastery. House's layering of form, balance and soul perhaps made the dance the hardest to interpret. He began in rags, again using the freeness of his clothing to illustrate a freeness of the mind. He then took off his shirt and undershirt to reveal the raw and primitive side of man.
The final dance was performed by the entire company. Entitled "Pingo Slink," the dance embodied all the elements seen throughout the show. However, there was a vitality in the movements that was not present in the others. The erratic rhythms and steps provided an intense emotional experience. Whether it was a slow turn of a head, or hundreds of turns, "Pingo Slink" embraced the human spirit in life and death.
It is very hard to describe this performance using words; its essence can only be embraced through the language of dance. The emotions felt by the audience are purely individual exactly what House intended.
The Toronto Dance Theatre was the first installment of three dance companies coming to The Grand this year. Ballet British Columbia will appear Feb. 7 followed by a performance of Romeo and Juliet by Ballet Jorgen on April 11. The dance series are only one-night engagements, try to get your tickets early. The Toronto troop will be appearing throughout Canada with performances in Toronto from Dec. 2 to Dec.13 and in St. Catharines, March 16.
Modern dance is a very unique medium. It demands much from its audience and a lack of commitment by show-goers can result in a waste of money. However, it does not take much to get caught up in the symphony of movement, music and fluidity that appears on stage. Sometimes the hardest things to understand are the most worthwhile.