By Adam Collier
Other than a couple of shows I saw this summer at the Toronto Fringe Festival, I’m not very familiar with contemporary dance. But the shows I went to – “The Duck Wife” and “Dance Animal” – were inventive and playful.
Going to Impulse I was expecting something generally along the same lines. Though, because I had heard about the show by word of mouth I had no clue what to expect specifically.
The first work, “Oracle Parade” reminded me of a flock of starlings. From moment-to-moment, the dancers would gather and scatter, gather and scatter. Forming an orderly line one second, then, in an unexpected flurry – with footsteps sounding a bit like a cacophony of beating wings – spreading around the performance space.
“It’s almost like they have an extra sense of awareness of one another,” my friend commented at intermission, referring to the twenty dancers that appear in “Oracle Parade.”
I agreed with her. The dancers don’t seem to look at one another, and; the music for “Oracle Parade,” credited to Paul Shepherd and Valerie Calam doesn’t seem to have any obvious cues for movement either.
While “Oracle Parade” was in a palate of pastels, the fifteen dancers in the piece that followed it “What is what isn’t” appear in stronger, contrasting colors. This, I found, was a complimentary effect to the choreography (credited to Robert Abubo, Steve Paquet and Michael Trent).
In contrast to the flock-like movement and graceful lines of “Oracle Parade,” “What is what isn’t” seemed to have a wider and more individualistic dispersal of energy around the performance space.
“What is what isn’t” also had words and phrases in it, shouted out. I didn’t pick-up on a story or theme linking them and nor did my friend. But later I began to wonder if I had missed something, because of the five works, “What is what isn’t” is the only one that has dramaturgy credits (they belong to Jacob Zimmer and Bonnie Kim).
The third work that night “Undone Tragedies” has twenty-two dancers credited in the performance.
Although the numbers might sound big – up until now, I can’t recall ever seeing that many people performing together at the same time, except in a symphony – the performance space doesn’t for a moment seem crowded. For me, it begs an impressive question, how does one choreograph so many people?
The choreography of “Undone Tragedies” (credited to Sharon B. Moore, and the dancers) was almost like a series of vignettes. But instead of following a sequence, they gently overlap one another. The whole work seems to circle back on itself, and ties all its idiosyncrasies together.
The two later works of the night were an interesting contrast to “Undone Tragedies.” Because while “Undone Tragedies” felt intentionally light, and had the audience giggling, the latter two works – the last of which was created nearly twenty-nine years ago by Danny Grossman in the spirit of anti-war – have a decidedly more serious tone.
Even now I find myself thinking of the imagery. In the second to last work, “Caving back towards the light”, dancers glide at an almost impossible angle toward the outstretched arms of a silhouetted figure.
Danny Grossman’s work was jaw dropping. I found it one powerful image after another. The dancers deserve individual credit and include Jane Alison McKinney, Alysha Cugini, Kala Fletcher, Ana Groppler, Brandon Ramsey, Freya Sargent, Alisa Stupak, Juanita Suárez Téllez, and Sam Xu.
Impulse goes up again December 10th and 11th at 8:00 at the Toronto Dance Theatre (one block east of Parliament on Winchester). I very strongly recommend going. The show is excellent.