I was thrilled to attend the second program of the inaugural Fall For Dance North dance festival on the evening of Oct 1, 2015. (Thanks to my friends K&D for getting tickets, and my dear hubby T for taking care of the kids on a Thursday night.) A whole evening of 6 dance companies for $10! How amazing is that? Considering that Oct 1 was also World Ballet Day, it was all together a great day of dance.
On a little more pessimistic side, I do wonder about the sustainability of the festival. The intention of it is to draw new audiences to attend dance performances by making both the price ($10) and the durations of each piece (20 min or less) more accessible. Will it be successful, in the way So You Think You Can Dance has broadened the audience for dance? I sure hope so.
For our evening of dance we had the Program 2 selection of performances. Here are my rough review notes:
Ballet BC – Twenty Eight Thousand Waves
- This company has come back from bankruptcy in 2009, and according to one of my companions for the evening, have revamped their quality of dance as well. (she used to be a season ticket holder of Ballet BC before 2009) If there was a decline in dance quality back then, it surely isn’t evident now. The performance given this night was terrific.
- The piece is physical, with intricate partnering sections, but also many moments of solitude.
- The lighting, set design and costuming were murky, dark…not unlike the waves at sea that pound an oil rig (the title of the piece apparently alludes to the number of times per day an oil rig is battered by waves)
- The first pas de deux was a stand-out moment for me, the two dancers handled the truly difficult partner work almost effortlessly, but were also able to convey a sense of angst or grief.
- Did there really have to be that bright string of lights across the top of the stage to shine in our eyes for half the performance though?
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – After the Rain Pas de Deux
- After the cold and dark look of Ballet BC, the brighter and warm colours of the set, lighting and costuming were welcomed by my eyes.
- A beautiful pas de deux piece, slow and not showy, but all the more difficult for the absolute control it takes at all times.
- While Christopher Wheeldon choreographed it as an abstract piece, I am left with a feeling of touching on the tender moments of a deep love, ended by a mourning of that love lost.
DanceBrazil – Malungos
- A hybrid of Afro-Brazilian folk dance, capoeira, and contemporary, the pulsing music provided by the musicians on stage was infectious. The rhythm section gave different tempos and rhythms (I think i heard some samba in there?) that just instinctively makes you want to move your body.
- While the dance quality can’t measure up against those that came before it, it was an enjoyable group performance.
Peggy Baker Dance Projects – fractured black
- I was most excited for the prospect of this one, because Peggy Baker is such a legend/institution in the Toronto contemporary dance world. I’d seen a performance of her company several years before and enjoyed it immensely. For this piece to be created in collaboration with musician Sarah Neufeld, it just seemed like it’d be something special to see.
- I was let down. The dance was oddly very static, with the movement really only coming from her arms and upper body, with only a few high kicks from the legs. Otherwise her feet were stuck in place. I kept thinking that at some point soon, she was going to rip off the corset and clunky heels she was wearing as a symbol of throwing off the shackles against women and finally MOVE! But no, the piece just ended, expectation unfulfilled.
- The music was haunting and beautiful though. Neufeld both played the violin *and* sang, which seems terribly difficult to me.
- I just had a thought – maybe Peggy Baker wanted us to feel frustrated, as a metaphor for how women are still constrained? Well, if frustration was the desired result, she sure got it from me, and I was not entertained by it. I don’t think it would win over any new audiences either.
Dorrance Dance – SOUNDspace
- This was my favourite piece of the night, hands down. Dorrance Dance is a tap dance company, one that aims to push the form. This particular piece has no music save the rhythms created from the dancers’ themselves. I was amazed by the varying audio textures, differences in volume and intensity, and playful rhythms throughout. The artistic director and choreographer Michelle Dorrance typically choreographs the rhythms and sounds first, then the steps to create the sounds, and then the body movements to make it an entertaining and surprising experience to watch.
- Thoroughly enjoyable and joyful from start to end. I’m sure I was smiling the whole way through. Great lighting design too, and now I’ve experienced what a properly miked tap routine is like. Personally I wished this was the closing routine of the evening.
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company – Desencuetros and Rio del Tiempo
- Esmeralda Enrique was definitely the star here in this flamenco performance. She was just oozing intensity and passion – her performance transcended the mere steps and she was radiating out to the back of the hall. It wasn’t that the other members of her company were poor performers at all—if you were to watch them individually, they were all lovely dancers. But the way she moved her arms and held the angles of her head, the snap back from flow to position…she was the star.
- The live musicians and singers were very cool too. Similar to the tap routine, the rhythms created in flamenco are very stirring.
Crossing my fingers that this really was the inaugural event, and not just a one-shot deal.