Singing in five-part harmony, making the music of the spheres, the five singing goddesses proceeding along Toronto’s Esplanade were a welcome sight for bystanders on May 25. This was the premiere of Divine Interventions, the latest production from CORPUS.
“There comes a time in every story when it feels like hope is lost,” states the introduction on the company website. “Everything is going wrong, all options have been exhausted, and the only thing left to do is pray for divine interventions.” That’s a sentiment most of us who’ve lived through the COVID-19 pandemic can relate to.
“We’ve been working on this piece for two years,” says artistic director and CORPUS co-founder David Danzon. That means in lockdown and rehearsing in masks. Danzon commissioned composer Anika Johnson to create new songs that form the score sung by Barbara Fulton, TrudyLee Gayle, Barbara Johnston, Tracy Michailidis and Michelle Yu. Choreographer Bonnie Kim and company member Matthew O’Connor collaborated with Danzon to achieve a trademark CORPUS spectacle — surrealism, delivered with wit and whimsy.
“They are five really talented, amazing singers, who also happen to be great movers,” says Danzon. They sang a capella, on and off their tricycle, winding up in the courtyard at Berkeley Castle at the end of the Esplanade. The four nights of the Toronto processional show found audiences eager for joyful and meaningful human interaction.
This spring and summer CORPUS is back on the road after a two-year hiatus, with engagements in San Diego, Norway, Sweden, Germany and France before returning to Canada for an August gig in Quebec. Among the shows they’re touring is the enduring Les Moutons, first seen in a Toronto park in 2003. You can get a taste of it in this video: Les moutons – Corpus Dance Projects
One might say Danzon, who was born in France, has come full circle since co-founding CORPUS with Dusk Dances artistic director Sylvie Bouchard in 1997. They arrived on the scene in 1996, creating A Flock of Flyers, for Dusk Dances. The premise was playful: “Due to severe budget cutbacks, the 217th Canadian Flying Squadron has been left without any planes . . .” Danzon, in the part of squadron leader, led the performers, costumed in leather helmets like World War I flying aces, in a show of a kind never seen before in Toronto. You can watch it here: http://corpus.ca/creations/flock-of-flyers
Danzon moved to Toronto with his parents and brother when he was 15. After the family returned to France, he remained and after high school enrolled in York University’s theatre program. But he was not destined for the indoor stage. “It’s a curious thing, he says of his career path. “I grew up on street theatre, because I had an aunt who was part of a well known Paris theatre company in the 70s and 80s. They were doing a lot of street performances in France. In the 60s there was a big thing about taking theatre outside the traditional four walls; a lot of festivals developed and it became a kind of form unto itself.”
Danzon has been leading CORPUS tours abroad since the early 2000s. This year company will go back to Japan, a country among the 34 they’ve performed in where they are particularly popular. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of street festivals in Europe in the summer, says Danzon. Plenty to keep inspiring this street artist extraordinaire.
Photos, courtesy CORPUS, from left: A Flock of Flyers, Divine Interventions, La Bulle