From its opening scene in a living room under constant rearrangement, Factory took me back to big ensemble arrangements of a kind you might see at the National Ballet. Michael Caldwell is a choreographer with classical tendencies.
Give him five outstanding dancers and you get a perfect mix of ensembles, solos, duets, trios all in a seamless flowing movement, and exchange of energies.
Factory posits “the riotous disruption of a hyper-connected society.” To this viewer it looked like a place where people were constantly coming and going, colliding, combining, working together or apart and finally arriving home.
In the room that is being arranged even as we wait for the dance to begin are: a standing fan, a red square carpet, a small table, an old-fashioned radio console, a desk chair. Lori Duncan, Louis Laberge-Côté, Benjamin Landsberg, Kaitlin Standeven and Heidi Strauss are all dressed in clothes you’d expect to see in the workplace or on the street. Laberge-Côté wears a raincoat over dress shirt. Landsberg is dressed like a biker and wears dark glasses. The women all wear outfits office workers might don.
Phil Stong’s outstanding soundscape brings sounds like the ocean, traffic, a factory assembly line, the hum of electricity, the rolling sound at a skateboard park or tranquil music.
The carpet rollout announces the action. Caldwell’s production designer Joe Pagnan has made brilliant use of this prop, which is finally crumpled up against the wall like a sculpture. The shoes they all removed are contained there.
These dancers co-ordinate in a way that bespeaks rigorous rehearsal. An opening solo by Standeven is supported and watched by the other four participants, just as it might be in a ballet. At times, they all move as one unit, striding across the space like creatures on a ship rolling at sea. Sometimes they fall as if victims of a shipwreck.
At moments, a figure will appear like an observer, a chronicler of urban life, then the configuration dissolves and another episode begins. This quintet operates together like the parts of a perpetual motion machine.
There’s peace and struggle, a fight scene and lots of contract-release coupling. A principle at play here is that a soloist will start slowly, then pirouette, then spin out of control. Then it’s someone else’s turn.
Factory has a pleasing symmetry that makes one hope it will return to the stage before too long.
By Michael Caldwell
Sound by Phil Strong
Light by Noah Feaver
Production design by Joe Pagnan
Presented by Citadel + Compagnie
At The Citadel, Toronto, until Sept. 23
Zhenya Cerneacov photo