Review: Allemande (MOVE)

Allemande had a three-night run at the Winchester Street Theatre in mid-April. A company called MOVE, in association with DanceWorks CoWorks produced the show.

Usually, when a show doesn’t have a familiar title or buzz, I hesitate to invite people. I find it too distracting to watch a show while hoping – praying, sometimes – that it will please the other person.

But for Allemande, I enthusiastically invited my dad and step-mom even though I had heard nothing about it.

I’ve seen just a few shows at the Winchester Street Theatre, which specializes in contemporary dance, and home to the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre, but those experiences had been so good, I was happy to open up the possibility of sharing another.

Allemande consists of four choreographic works. The first shares its title with the title of the show.

Allemande was set to the sound of a solo cello. The score, a collection of excerpts from suites by the 18th century German composer J. S. Bach, initially struck me as almost incongruous to the rapid, discrete movements of the performers.

While the notes of the cello seem to glide together, there was nothing I’d describe as gliding onstage.

As Allemande goes on though, I became increasingly aware of how rapidly the notes in the score were ascending and plunging in pitch. The romantically curving soundscape, after extended listening, resolved into little peaks and valleys.

As this happened, what I was hearing — or, rather, the way I was hearing it — synched-up more and more with Josh Beamish’s choreography. If there’s what can be called a logic to the movement, that features some robot-like twists of the upper body that were previously unimaginable to me, it clicked-in for me when I came to more fully appreciate the score.

Studies In Cash followed. It featured six songs performed by Johnny Cash. The choreography was by Simone Orlando.

My step-mom told me she was looking forward to Caught Excerpt, the third piece in Allemande.

Caught Excerpt takes its inspiration, the program notes say, from a book of tangos. And my step-mom is huge fan of this style.

As expected, she loved it. So did my dad.

To be truthful, it was the piece we talked about the least after the show though. In my estimation, this was because it had that special quality of a strong, self-contained work that defies discussion. When something is deeply satisfying, talking about it after only detracts from it.

Lara Barclay choreographed Caught Excerpt. The music is credited to Hauschka.

Secret Self closed the night. This work by Matjash Mrozewski was, for me, the most visually stimulating. The interplay between light and darkness was particularly striking. Especially at the beginning, when a seemingly endless number of small lanterns were taken-out of a box in the upper right corner of the stage.

On that note, by the way, I’d like to add that the lighting throughout Allemandewas well done. The lighting in Allemande for example, was from sources near the floor, shinning across and, slightly up. Because of this, the muscularity of the performers – they’re not twigs, like stereotypical classical ballet dancers – was impressively evident to me. No one is credited for lighting, though.

Secret Self, like Allemande, was set to an older score: the third movement of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” sonata. And because the Winchester Street Theatre has a top-notch sound system – that AMC at the corner of Dundas and Yonge has nothing over this place – every note was crisp; the texture as a whole, ensconcing.

Allemande was thoroughly enjoyable. Provocative, too: my dad, step-mom and I were referring to it for days later. Its performers – Lara Barclay, Josh Beamish (also the artistic director of MOVE), Reid Colton, Heather Dotto, Cai Glover and Crystal Wills – are worth keeping an eye on for future works.