There’s huge bang for your dance buck to be had at the Fall for Dance North festival. Fifteen dollars gets you a seat at any one of three brilliantly orchestrated programs presented at the Sony Centre and Ryerson Theatre, while a noon-hour interactive dance performance from Montreal’s Compagnie Marie Chouinard today at Union Station is free for the watching.
First up in Program 1 is Red Sky Performance with Adizokan, a show made in collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra that premiered last October. With the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra playing a composition by Eliot Britton live in the pit, the show combines indigenous dance, song, drumming and musicianship with contemporary non-native music and sky-high video projections in celebration of First Nations’ art, culture and spirituality. Most impressive are the elaborately costumed grass dancers, who swirl to the rhythms of Nelson Tagoona’s throat boxing, a hybrid of hip hop beat boxing and throat singing. At times there is too much going on, with either the symphonic music or the video projections overwhelming the dance, choreographed by Jera Wolfe and Sandra Laronde. But Adizokan clearly conveys a message of spirit and earthly beings in harmony with one another.
The extraordinary dancers from Compagnie Marie Chouinard perform excerpts from Chouinard’s Radical Vitality, Solos and Duets, a precis of her work, going back as far as 1991. These short pieces display the choreographer’s hallmark animalistic, sexually charged – and often humorous – theatrical tendencies. In Love Attack #2, Clémentine Schindler licks and nips at Scott McCabe, like a lovelorn puppy, as he voices a parody of a mating call. Eroticism is the thread that unites these bits, as shock gives way to joy, especially in Finale, where nude dancers wearing baby face masks make an arresting display of innocence acting out in provocative ways.
The Cuban company Los Hijos Del Director presents an excerpt from La Tribulación de Anaximandro, choregraphed by artistic director George Céspedes, a high-energy display of power plays and rough and tumble that looks like a martial arts class on steroids. Male and female dancers don shirts that obscure their gender differences, so attaining gender equality in tightly ordered combinations of creation, destruction and re-creation.
The Soweto Skeleton Movers arrived on the world’s concert stages from the streets of the South African township where they developed their unique form of “pantsula” a fusion of breakdancing, acrobatics, contortionism and sleight-of-hand hijinks. Junior Hlongwane, Jabulani Manyoni, Topollo Ntulo and Molefi Rakitla all appear to have more moving parts than the typical human body, as they perform tricks, such as levitating a spinning hat, or forming themselves into bicycle, that ends the program on a high note of joy. Program 1 runs once more on the Sony Centre stage at 7:30 tonight.
Program 2, opening Friday at the Sony Centre and running again on Saturday, presents Toronto’s Asah Productions performing Obeah Opera 2019, an all-female theatrical piece created by Nicole Brooks and based on stories from the Black diaspora. Jiri Kylian’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) is performed by the Netherlands company Introdans with the Mahler score played live by 10 musicians and mezzo-soprano Georgia Burashko. The National Ballet of Canada dances Justin Peck’s Paz de la Jolla, an homage to his youth in southern California. Compagnie Hervé Koubi from Cannes, France will do an excerpt from What the Day Owes to the Night. And Montreal’s La Otra Orillia takes flamenco in a contemporary direction with RITE/ a flamenco ceremony.
The final performance of Program 3 goes up tonight at the Ryerson Theatre, with performances from Anne Plamondon and Emma Portner in a piece commissioned by Fall for Dance North called Counter Cantor. Ballet Kelowna performs Mambo, billed as “sweet, silly, sensual and sassy.” And Introdans does Canto Ostinato, a contemporary ballet piece choreographed by American artist Lucinda Childs.
Fall for Dance North,
October 2 to 6
Sony Centre, Ryerson Theatre, Union Station in Toronto
Co-presented by the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
Photos from top left, clockwise: Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Asah Productions’ Obeah Opera 2019, Anne Plamondon + Emma Portner and Soweto Skeleton Movers