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Flash Review 3, 8-15: Fffffffffffffffida
Fringing it from Tango to Moby

By Shena Wilson
Copyright 2002 Shena Wilson

TORONTO -- For Torontonians keen on dance, not seeing some of the Fringe Festival of Independent Dance, or fFida, just concluded this year at the Buddy at Bad Times Theater, is sort of like not finishing Proust if you majored in French literature: no matter your reasons, you look like a clown, or a cheater.

Like all lottery fests, fFida artists are selected by lottery -- some entrants seem to have a golden horseshoe lodged somewhere. They return quasi annually and are either as delicious as sweet fresh rain, or about as fun as a heat rash. The second fFida phenomenon is an odd lack of some types of dance. Either these people don't apply, or are not lucky in lottery. Where are the cloggers, the break-dancers, the people trained in ancient or unusual dance forms I cannot even name, currently independent and stretching the boundaries of their art? And as far as I can see there only was only one piece 'unsuitable for children' this year. Shucks. The fFida facilities and crew are top-notch, and the audience is established and growing.Hip-hop to Stan Getz? Do pointe work to Nirvana? Step dance to Bach and kd lang? Buy a rabbit's foot and apply to fFida!

In this year's edition, I saw Mainstage Series A to F and Late Shows I and II. For one piece I could only jot: b-a-d. Let's focus on a few of the good. There are several -- too many to cover.

Keith Moreno, a Canadian based in Spain, is definitely one of my favorites.Humor, soul, unpredicable movement, groove, and maturity -- it's all there. Both pieces presented here werepremieres."No Tango," performed by Johanna Laber asks: What can be more degrading than not having anyone to dance with...? And in "Oh Yeah..!?" (music by Moby, Arvo Part) Moreno explores what he calls the "egotistical world that we create around ourselves" and the stark exposure when our veneer is gone. He ends up with his pants around his ankles, shirt open. Moreno moves extremely well -- so well that I forget he is dancing.

Toronto-based Jennifer Dick and Furious Beaver Design Concern present "Far Away So Close," inspired by what Dick refers to as the "notion that angels may live among us." I don't think the hang glider marked 'Dove' added to my experience, nor did the theme develop clearly for me, but it was all performed beautifully by beautiful angelic creatures who are Caroline Richardson, Jennifer Lynn Dick, Roberto Campanella and Robert Glumbek. In particular, the solo by Roberto Campanella was gorgeous and fully gutsy. This portion seemed to convey most clearly the terrestrial angel.

(Last fall Robert Glumbek and Roberto Campenella collaborated to choreograph "Nine Sentiments," inspired by Michael Ondaatje's poem of the same name. The author's voice spoke the text throughout. Ondaatje worked with the choreographers to create an entrancing, sensual, memorable piece. Thought: could fFida add a category of dance inspired by published fiction or poetry? It has a Words 'n Motion portion, but how about "Author's choice"?)

The U.S. sent a treat: Sara Hook's "Bashibazouk," first created in 1997 and revised last year. Luc Vanier, originally from Montreal and currently a performer, choreographer, and teacher, was incredible. The word Bashibazouk, slang for "one who is ill-tempered," derives from the name of an 18th Century sect of Turkish soldiers infamous for their savagery and lack of discipline. Vanier whirls, rushes, and grimaces like a crazed puppet or cartoon character sprung to life. He pauses, tendu devant, arms in open fourth, a classical pose of calm. Irony seeps in. Then, he springs into action. Intermittently he shouts "I am sorry, so sorry." I consider the title. Sorry for what? Slaying people? Existing? Being mean looking? The piece is very funny -- excellent and extremely memorable. This is what I love about the fringe!

William Yongpremiered "Thrice Withershins," complete with an eastern European castle rooftop and gothic atmosphere, sexy costumes, and makeup. Even with my veritable Transylvanian roots (Mum's side, of course), I was not particularly drawn into the vampire-goth theme, based on the legend Nosferatu. What did capture me was the dancing by Kristy Kennedy, Valerie Calam and Yong himself. The movement was polished and used the music well. The original soundtrack by Trevor Mann was especially great encompassing melody, groove, beat, pause,and flavor.

Travesty Group, also from the U.S.,presented "Three," for which Rebecca Malcolm-Naib was credited as primary choreographer. At first I sighed. No, I thought, another study of angst or existential who-knows-what with silly props. Oh! but I was wrong. Sit still for three seconds more and one discovers a mature gem of a piece. I learned things about my triceps. "Three" is indeed an interesting, smart and whimsical little number.

Claire Sparrow, from Leeds, England presented "Licence2," performed by Sparrow and Christa Lochead. I really enjoyed this quasi physical-theatre piece.Sparrow treats the trials of driving (on the left we note) and of getting somewhere(or nowhere?) both physically and emotionally. Clean and bright, "Licence2" guides us through road rage into check-your-lipstick in the mirror and back to coping with fellow road travellers, of any kind.

"Twice 4 No Reason" was a highlight of the festival. Choreographer Stephanie Thompson (Toronto) considers: the best time to live is right now,right here. Interpreter Michelle DeBrouwer gave an excellent performance.I laughed, I pondered. We are all victims at some point of our unending dissatisfaction with the 'now.' "Twice 4 No Reason" presents a very smart use of theme, performer, and prop.

In the Composers Choice series, Rachel Gorman worked with singer/songwriter Lilia Silveira. Gorman's "Waking the Living" looks at the invasion by the small screen in our lives. The piece is Intelligent and engaging, with motion that allows us to just follow along. Almost indescribable, the performance will stick in your mind. Turn off the tube; hug your friends. One of the dancers, Spirit Synott, who also trained as an actor, has particular polish and is an engaging performer. Synot She also has an unusual body.

Bridget Cauther's "Last Wash 10:30 p.m."was danced cleanly and with personality by Jennifer Bolt, Caroline Niklas-Gordon and Lucy Rupert. We are at the laundry mat, with not a prop in site. Three women are doing their wash. Not hokey, the piece is smart in its simplicity. Chris Czopnick's music had an engaging and subtle beat with a cyclical thread of melody that neatly addressed the washer aspect of the piece. (Oh and let's all go to that place where something still costs -- as mouthed by a dancer reading a Laundromat price list -- "25 cents.")

In Series E, Carly Wong as a performer and as a choreographer in her Prayer Wheel and Shillelagh was smooth and engaging, albiet slightly monotone.

For some reason, there was a certain lack of polish or original flare in most of the ethnic or folk groups seen, and it's a shame. his is usually such a charming part of fFida. I leave wanting to learn a new dance form. This year I just wondered briefly if I would be able to remember all my Sevillanas.A pitcher of Sangria would probably help.

The 2002 fFida did resemblelast year's in its range of quality and styles. There is that flavour, the fFida feeling. It's something like a huge recital with each group drawing its unique following. Audience watching can be as intriguing as what goes on stage.

The 96 different choreographers fill three categories: The mainstage series at "Buddies," for those with minimum five years professional experience, the Open Faces shows at the Winchester Street Theatre for newer talent and finally the various off-site venue, including parks.

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