Review: Four At The Winch Quebec (Toronto Dance Theatre)

The crowd tittered with laughter at the abrupt sight: one performer riding the back of another, slapping the latter on the bum.

The percussive flesh-on-flesh came after a few minutes of nearly still meditation onstage at the Winchester Street Theatre.

The work, titled Etrange, which was accompanied by bass-y, molasses-like soundscape by Ludovic Gayer, was part of Four At The Winch Quebec. It featured – note the past tense; the show closed March 3rd after a planned run of seven performances – new works by four choreographers currently working in Montreal: Estella Clareton, Lina Cruz, Deborah Dunn, and Jean-Sebastien Lourdais.

Etrange is by Mr. Lourdais.

According to the program, Mr. Lourdais set out to challenge us “to see the human vessel in all its visceral metabolic glory.”

When I read that, I half-shrugged; visceral metabolic glory?

But, judging by the chitchat that broke out after the performers – Mairi Greig, Yuichiro Inoue, and Naishi Wang – took a bow, to whoops and catcalls, Mr. Lourdais’ challenge was extremely well received.

Its lst few moments, particularly, as the performers smash chests together, bouncing one another around, got me talking, too. There was this ritual-looking, primal elegance to the sequence, not quite like anything I’ve seen.

Preceding Etrange was Etude sur l’amour // printemps by Ms. Clareton.

The program notes that Etude sur l’amour // printemps was created in collaboration with interpretive artists. Are those the performers we see – Alana Elmer, Syreeta Hector, Peter Hessel, Ryan Lee, Pulga Muchochoma, Jillian Peever, Kaitlin Standeven, Brodie Stevenson, and Sarah Wasik? Or others?

Either way, Etude sur l’amour // printemps, with music by Eric Forget, had me smiling.

The work manifests the idea that love contorts people. And the result is nearly acrobatic at times.

There were two works in the second half of Four At The Winch Quebec: Men Come, men go by Ms. Dunn, and POP OUT YOUR APPLES AND ENJOY THE VIEW by Ms. Cruz.

In the program, Ms. Dunn’s work is described as the meeting of theatre and dance.

Perhaps, more accurately, it is the meeting of theatre (with fragments of dialogue between performers, and the costumes seem grounded in specific characters), movement, and cinema (the audio accompanying Men Come, men go featured excerpts from the film Apocalypse Now Redux by Francis Ford Coppola).

It featured Mr. Hessel, Mr. Lee, Mr. Muchochoma, Ms. Standeven, and Ms. Wasik.

The final work of the evening, POP OUT YOUR APPLES AND ENJOY THE VIEW, I had trouble wrapping my arms around.

The program describes Ms. Cruz’s work as “an unstable world of meaning, inhabited by creatures that exist in a space between human and animal.”

It was fun to watch. But it didn’t resonate with me emotionally the way that the other works did.

POP OUT YOUR APPLES AND ENJOY THE VIEW featured music by Philippe Noireaut, and was performed by Mr. Elmer, Mr. Greig, Ms. Hector, Mr. Inoue, Mr. Stevens, Ms. Peever – also an intern at the Toronto Dance Theatre, along with Mr. Hessel – and, Mr. Wang.

Lighting for Four At The Winch Quebec, a particularly integral element I find to any show at the Winchester Theatre, was by Gabriel Cropley.

Overall, a show that I wish I could have attendedearlier, so I could spread the good word before it closed last Saturday.

Photo credit: Guntar Kravis