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Flash Review 3, 2-15: Scoop it Up, Baby!
Love and Other Duets Fested

By Shena Wilson
Copyright 2002 Shena Wilson

TORONTO -- Before During After, the inaugural program of the Dance Festival of Duets seen Saturday February 9 at the Winchester Street Theatre, home to Toronto Dance Theatre in downtown Toronto's Cabbagetown district, was a tweak and a treat. Produced by three independent Toronto dance companies, the Chimera Project, Edgedanceworks and Muses, this indie fest of new dance was presented in three sections of four choreographers each, diplomatically juggled into rotating time slots to fill three evenings at the Winchester. I was immediately drawn to choreographers familiar: William Yong, Nicola Pantin, and Malgorzata Nowacka, for example. And I appreciated the pure efficiency of discovering 12 pieces by some of Toronto's finest emerging and established choreographers snuggled into one slick little eve. Other creators included: Kathleen Rea, Tanya Crowder, Julia Sasso, Rebecca Todd, Yvonne Coutts, Eryn Dace Trudell, Monica Gan, Jeanette McGarry and Maegan O'Shea.

Couple love, infirmity love, sexual love, self-love (in the form of vanity -- hush now), rough love, tough love and dance-for-me darling love -- it was all there. I had initially expected more explorations between "characters" and perhaps even more sexy stuff. However, my fantasies aside, we saw a juicy plethora of styles, an uncommon use of silence and live sound, and, because some pieces are spanking new or in development, there was a completely acceptable variance in the level of polish or sophistication.

In the space we have here, and in keeping with the theme du jour, I've chosen to focus on my loves-at-first-sight and a couple of quirky crushes, which, considering my dating habits, says a whole bunch. (That is a joke, n'est-ce pas?)

Yong's piece, "Visitation," which I saw as a celebration and remembrance of a deceased love, was simply exquisite. Just writing this, I can feel again the gorgeous emotion of what Yong created. Dressed simply in black trousers and shirts, Christopher T. Grider and Yong compliment each other in every possible way and mesh the physical, the fantasy and the emotion with ease, sensuality and class. The many lifts were airy, the overall elegance and complicity palpable. Could an evening-length creation be developed?

Kathleen Rea's offering "Elysiam" I found fabulously original. I so look forward to seeing even more of Rea's work. Grace, bumps, speed, stillness, unpredictable twists and even some nifty disco nonsense were offered up. It worked so incredibly well. Set to music by Clint Mansel and played by the Kronos Quartet, dancers Courtnae Bowman and Amy Hampton were a joy to watch. Hampton, in particular, has a way of presenting movement to look like it was always supposed to be done that way, and no other, and this is accomplished with glow and soul. Just since I last saw her at the modern dance festival fFIDA in August, she has refined her strengths with depth and polish. What a pleasure to witness in evolution.

Nicola Pantin's piece, an excerpt from "Little Freedoms," has quirky moves and a delightfully subtle story arc. Two sleepy women, sisters perhaps, wake in the wee hours of the morn hunched on each other near their makeshift Hobo cart. Reminiscent perhaps of those who were Waiting for Godot, these folks however have no existential major worries, other than perhaps poverty and fleas, thorns, an itchy butt, pins-and-needles numbness in various limbs, and a stubbed foot or two. They prod each other into a silly, but not goofy, and intriguing flow of motion until they load up and wander.... It was all adorably danced on the 9th by Robin Calvert and Neesa Kenemy.

While all of the fest choreographers used original vocabularies of physical expression, there was what I'll call the 'love-scoop,' which gradually became the signature move of the evening. I guess we've all seen, done and dreamed the "love-scoop" at some point: one person curves into a c-shape on the floor, or standing, and another dancer scoops themselves, in some format, into the little comfy hole. That's fine, but in some pieces it became the 'um' in the flow of their physical prose. It's logical, I suppose. As humans who care for each other, we do this. We scoop, cradle and huddle. It's beautiful. Whew. There was a whole lot of scooping going on.

Rebecca Todd presented "Nine Degrees of Freedom" to live on-stage sound created by Susanna Hood. Hood spoke phrases, such as, "It takes time to come home" which were re-recorded (or looped?) onto other sounds. forming a dizzying, grating crescendo. Meanwhile, Yves Candau and Eryn Dace Trudell interacted with and narrowly missed a gigantic mobile. The mobile was composed of rectangular wooden stretcher bars (as used by those who stretch their own canvases to paint), some uncovered and empty, some covered in blank canvas. A very brief multimedia use of live video of the dancers' faces projected onto the back wall but, curiously, not onto the moving canvases and frames. Ah the potential! Notwthstanding the desperate 'get me outta here' gesture of my witty companion PG during this cacophony, in the end, I found the raw stuff of this assembly somehow memorable. The piece looks like it could go somewhere deep and meaningful and find nine degrees of freedom. (Aren't there nine layers in purgatory? Nine in hell? Someone call Dante.) As for the beauty of love or duet or whatever . . . never you mind. Haven't we all experienced "love" that spins, looks incoherent and sounds kinda ugly? It's a big risk to take. In love, and in art. Bon courage!

Malgorzata Nowacka, dancer and choreographer of "Transitions" with Piotre Biernat asked us to reconsider indecision. Such energy! I'm not sure exactly how we got to indecision between the dancers or in general. In fact, I'm still, er, undecided on that, but, I was engaged by the charismatic tossing, spinning, and strutting. And, speaking of tantalizing, there was "Imagining Beauty: 1. Vanity, and 2. The Image". While I yearned for more vamping and interaction in this piece (but that's just me), I was certainly intrigued by the sly and groovy Tanya Crowder, who chose to duet with herself in mirrors. By reflecting herself in hand mirrors and then in part two, reflecting us back to ourselves in a large mirror, Crowder enabled the audience as well to become her partner as she explored love-hate, virtue-vice to music by Amon Tobin. Clever.

Clever is the final word on this Festival of Duets where originality roams free and good creative vibes vibe. What an ambitious undertaking for these three independent producers. (Who also, just for the record, know how to assemble a snazzy salsa-style fund-raiser eve.)


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