Review: Toronto Heritage Dance (DanceWorks CoWorks)

The fake sheepskin was back.

Last Thursday was the opening of Toronto Heritage Dance at the Winchester Street Theatre.

That night also marked the return of a reprise: “So, it’s gonna go down to” – (insert single digit number here) – “tonight.” And my friend wore a white fleecy jacket.

The title, with emphasis on that middle word, heritage, seems to hint at something to do with tradition. The venue, though, is one I associate with contemporary movement works.

So, the juxtaposition had me scratching my head.

The clue of what to expect comes from the company behind Toronto Heritage Dance, DanceWorks CoWorks. They co-produced a show that’s still firmly in my memory, Allemande.

To skip the superlatives, Allemande combined a score by J.S. Bach with movement.

Toronto Heritage Dance is a collection of seven works. And four of them feature music credited to names that might be more familiar to a listener of 96.3 FM than a general audience (names such as Arcangelo Corelli, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Gregorio Allegri).

And I noticed that under the title of a couple works (Baroque Suite Duet choreographed by David Earle, and Misererie also by Mr. Earle), there was a mention that they had originally premiered in Toronto decades ago.

So, as a program, there is definitely a flavor of the past and local history to Toronto Heritage Dance.

Before the intermission, the second and fourth works, Castaway and The High Heart respectively, were huge crowd pleasers.

The former features a shark fin circling a valiant figure at sea (Eddie Kastrar). While in the latter, performer Danielle Baskerville seems to swell with more and more intensity as a distant-sounding drum occasionally beats. The score is credited to Arvo Part.

Baroque Suite Duet and Pavane (from A Simple Melody) were the other two works pre-intermission.

Pond Life II choreographed by Terrill Maguire, Cut by Danny Grossman, and Miserere by Mr. Earle rounded-out Toronto Heritage Dance.

Miserere particularly impressed my friend. But she didn’t say much about it.

My friend said of The High Heart that it was inspiring. The full comment was something like, “crushed red velvet huh; wow, that’s pretty inspiring,” referring to the costume, which features a long crimson train.

And she offered an explanation for Pond Life II, a work I just didn’t get; “I think she was a frog,” referring to the performer Ms. Maguire.

Toronto Heritage Dance was an enjoyable, occasionally challenging show that I’d recommend, particularly if your curiosity was whetted by Allemande and you want to see a couple more examples of what it looks like when the idiom of contemporary dance is set to compositions from many generations ago.

Toronto Heritage Dance ran from September 15th to 18th.