Dancing in and out of love

Blue Valentine, The Citadel, 304 Parliament Street, Toronto, February 15 to 18, 2017

Andrew Hartley and Emma Kerson were barely out of dance school when they formed a collective called Common People and began to commission choreography. And now they’re putting on a double bill in the Coleman Lemieux series Bright Nights.

Dubbed Blue Valentine, the show comprises two duets, Simon Renaud’s l’inanité des bibelots / love would only slow me down and Tedd Robinson’s Songs and Tarps.

Kerson, a Halifax native, and Hartley, from Moncton, began dancing together in classes at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, around 2008. They met Renaud, a graduate of The School of Dance in Ottawa, when he moved into a Toronto apartment below Hartley’s.

“I spoke really, really bad English at the time,” recalls Renaud, currently working with Montreal’s Daniel Léveillé Danse. Andrew spoke a bit of French. They bonded. All three shared a dance language and they began to work together in 2014.

“They invited me to create a piece on them; they gave me carte blanche,” says Renaud. The dance he made is about loneliness and isolation and is full of tension – in the sound by Ida Toninato and a strobing lighting design from Simon Rossiter and Noah Feaver.

“We are both covered in these blue tarps and we’re kind of like the same species, moving down the same tracks, but never intersecting,” says Andrew.

“Simon’s piece is very slow, very minimal,” notes Emma. “It plays with our ideas of time. You drop into another zone while you’re doing it.”

Dan Wild, who has acted as rehearsal director sees l’inanité des bibelots as very much the interplay of “psychic and physical energies. It uses energistic imagery.”

Renaud suggested commissioning Tedd Robinson to create a duet to complement his piece. Renaud was one of five dancers chosen to work with Robinson on FACETS, which premiered in May 2015 at the National Arts Centre. The collaborative, full-length piece draws on two decades of Robinson’s creations under the 10 Gates Dancing banner.

“I had never received such a succinct, clearly directed commission request,” Robinson recalls. By now Hartley and Kerson knew what they were looking for; the project intrigued Robinson, one of the most sought-after and imaginative choreographers around.

Partly governed by what Robinson describes as a generational difference, he made a “prequel” to l’inanité des bibelots / love would only slow me down. Called simply Songs and Tarps, it is set to music by Charles Quevillon, with whom Robinson has made 19 works.

“I’m from a certain era and I wanted to make a work that was a dance to songs.” Quevillon composed a romantic, balladic score, in which the dancers approach each other, moving in time with the music, more clothed than in the Renaud piece.

“This may be a life before,” says Robinson. The dancers are touching, or nearly touching, their hands vibrating in close proximity. “I am working in Simon’s negative space, I suppose.”

l’inanité des bibelots / love would only slow me down

Choreography – Simon Renaud; Composer – Ida Toninato; Lighting designers – Simon Rossiter, Noah Feaver; Rehearsal directors -Susie Burpee, Dan Wild; Performers – Andrew Hartley, Emma Kerson

Songs and Tarps

Creation – Tedd Robinson with Andrew Hartley and Emma Kerson; Sound score – Charles Quevillon; Lighting designers – Simon Rossiter, Noah Feaver; Rehearsal directors – Susie Burpee, Dan Wild; Performers – Andrew Hartley, Emma Kerson

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