The hit dance production Betroffenheit returns to the Canadian Stage for a limited engagement
For an incredibly limited time engagement (until February 21), Canadian Stage brings back Betroffenheit, the dance/spoken word/movement piece that made waves during it’s initial debut during the 2015 Panamania. This performance that is at times unnerving, at times uncomfortable, at times zany, and all around eye-opening debuted to a packed house and currently what tickets are still available for the remaining performances are few and far in between.
Generally translated, ‘Betroffenheit’ refers to a moment of being struck by an altering event and it is in that moment and the moments leading up to and following that event that this two-hour performance focuses on. The story is non-linear and is often times cacophonous, chaotic and disjointed. However, the plot does slowly reveal and unravel itself.
Betroffenheit is immaculately choreographed by Crystal Pite who has simply outdone herself here. The movements are incredibly mercurial and nuanced. Even those moments where the dancers are shifting and swaying ever so slightly feel powerful and moving. Jonathon Young is the star and co-creator. His performance and the depths of emotions emanating through his story shine on the stage.
Through a fragmented narrative, the audience learns that Young has undergone a traumatic event. Locked in the moment, his mind struggles to come to terms and process the tragedy that has occurred to him. The narrative shifts from inside his head to the process of events on the outside happening to him. Gradually — and with the surprising inclusion of a few pink and fluffy Vegas showgirls — we learn about the exact events that Young has experienced.
Betfroffenheit is not just a dance performance, though the dance here is incredible to watch, but one that includes much spoken word and song, both of which are used very effectively to add to the atmosphere of the piece. The set design by Jay Gower Taylor, sound design by Owen Belton, Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roe, and lighting design by Tom Visser help to create a world that is surreal and both stark and sumptuous at the same time.
The show contains one 20 minute intermission and in the second act, the audience is first greeted by a rapid change in setting. Gone is the worn out old warehouse setting and replacing it is a stark, cold and sterile dark space with a single lone pillar creating harsh shadows and breaking the light into jagged shafts — the effect is superb. The moment when the old set returns painted on a tarp that Young finds himself tangled in speaks volumes.
My friend Raelynn who joined me for the evening is completely new to the world of dance, and frankly I’m far from an expert myself. We both found the show incredibly well done even with our limited understanding of dance and movement. She did, however, find the second half to be a bit repetitive which started to lose her attention after a while. I found that the pacing tended to drag in certain moments and that started to shift my attention to elsewhere. In any case, we both thought the piece could have been edited down to be shorter and still maintain the emotional depth.
If you are familiar with Betroffenheit‘s debut last year and you planned well enough in advance to pick up your tickets to the show then you are surely in for a treat. If the idea behind the show has suddenly sparked your interest, do your best to call the Canadian Stage box office as soon as you can as remaining tickets are extremely limited. Good luck.
- Betroffenheit is playing at the Bluma Appel Theatre at the St Lawrence Centre (27 Front St E) until February 21, 2016.
- With only three performances remaining, show times are Friday February 19 at 7 pm (with a pre-show talk at 6:15 pm), Saturday February 20 at 8 pm, and Sunday February 21 at 1 pm (with a post show talk with Jonathon Young).
- Tickets for the remaining three performances are extremely limited, please call the box office at 416 368 3110 for more information.
- Audience advisory: Performances contain strobe lighting, haze effects, and coarse language.
Photo of Jonathon Young and David Raymond by Michael Slobadian