Talk about a catchy title. Testosterone, the full-length dance that Newton Moraes has created with four male dancers premieres Thursday, April 28, at Dancemakers Centre for Creation. The show is his biggest, best, most complex and compelling work to date.
Under construction since January, the show — in rehearsal at least — delivers much that one would associate with the male hormone and much that is unexpected.
Moraes admits he didn’t know a lot about testosterone until he started doing a bit of research. Both men and women, to some degree, are driven by the hormone. “It’s important for us. Too much and you get aggression and fighting, but there is a positive aspect to it, in building muscles and giving us a sex drive. A lack of testosterone can lead to depression and illness.” And in middle age, men start to lose testosterone, the way women lose estrogen. These facts went into the mix along with personal observations about how we are a lot more than the sum of our endocrine systems.
A Brazilian who came to Toronto from Porto Alegre in 1991, Moraes has embraced the cultural and gender diversity of his adopted city and that had much to do with the shaping of Testosterone.
“I am a feminist. I believe in equal rights for women and men. I think there are lots of things being done for women nowadays that are wonderful and we as humans are advancing when we recognize LGBTQ rights. But when I was thinking of male friends of mine and how society has changed, reversing roles for men and women in the home for instance, I thought, how are these changes affecting men?”
A grant from the Ontario Arts Council and support from Dance Ontario Weekend made it possible for Moraes to put much more work into this show than is usually the case for independent choreograhers. Still, he had to work a back-breaking day job to raise enough money to pay everyone adequately. His choice of dancers was fortuitous: Colombian-born Falciony Patino Cruz; Brazilian Marco Placencio; Italian Canadian Emilio Colalillo; and Shakeil Rollock, who is of Caribbean descent. Physically, temperamentally and culturally they make a fascinating mix.
Also, says Moraes, they each brought skills from different schools of dance. “So they bring different ways of expressing themselves, in the way they move, the way they dress, the way they connect with each other.”
Partnering between men is central to Testosterone, and since male dancers are not trained to lift other males, Moraes brought in choreographer Allen Kaeja to give a master class in elements of dance such as lifting, catching and overbalancing into the next move. There is a fair amount of body-slamming going on in Testosterone, balanced with some very tender moments. Feedback from Toronto dancer/choreographers Ronald Taylor, Kevin Ormsby and BaKari I. Lindsay has helped sharpen the piece.
The dancers enter in business power-suits and among the many changes they undergo in the hour is a moment when Placencio performs in high heels, wearing a dress. Moraes invited trans artist Lola Ryan to coach the dancers on how to access their inner female.
“Testosterone is not just about expressing our macho masculinity,” says the choreographer. “It’s also about accepting the feminine side of ourselves.”
Photo of Falciony Patino Cruz, Emilio Colalillo and Shakeil Rollock by Emmanuel Marcos
April 28 to 30 at 8 pm and May 1 at 3pm, at the Dancemakers Theatre, 313, 9 Trinity St, Distillery District Toronto as part of Danceworks/Co-works
Tickets: $25 General Admission $20 Seniors, CADA Members and Students