Review: HOMEbody lessons in prairie living… (Shannon Litzenberger Contemporary Dance)

The Winchester Street Theatre has never looked as spacious as it did Thursday at the opening night of HOMEbody lessons in prairie living… Shannon Litzenberger Contemporary Dance had transformed the tiny theatre into a vast landscape, bringing a piece of Saskatchewan into metropolitan Toronto.

HOMEbody has been in development since 2008. The solo work, conceived, choreographed and performed by Shannon Litzenberger, is an exploration of the question ‘what is home?’ discussed through the personal story of the performer herself. Through the use of movement, recorded text and video, Litzenberger tracks her history from growing up in rural Saskatchewan to currently living in Toronto. Interspersed into the telling of her own journey is also the greater story of her family, her native province, and the stories of people she has met along the way.

We sat down in the space and were greeted by the projected image of a gopher skittering across the Saskatchewan landscape. The traditional black theater legs were replaced with gigantic patchwork quilts and the normally black dance floor had been flipped to reveal its white underbelly. Strategically placed hooks hung around the room and a big wooden fence ran off into the distance along stage right. In the middle of the stage sat a wooden dining table with mismatched legs holding it up.

Shannon Litzenberger entered the space by bursting through the gate and scurrying around the stage in a gopher-like manner. The recorded text tracked her journey helping push her story forward. She transitioned from gopher, to history buff, to childhood prairie dweller, to big city inhabitant.

As she unraveled her story, the landscape of the space also went through significant transformations. Hooks became coat hangers, costumes became projection surfaces and the table played a plethora of leading and supporting roles. No element of the environment was introduced without purpose. The fence even came apart to serve as a prop as well as a set piece.

It was the projections which I found to be the most engaging set element. Along with giving an expansive feel to the stage, the exaggerated size of the images on the projection screen allowed you to feel completely immersed in the landscapes shown. Yet, they were more than just a backdrop. Litzenberger often interacted with the images, pretending to try and open the kitchen drawer, look down the road for the school bus or become one with the wheat sheaves blowing in the wind. One of the most striking images for me was when she played with her own gigantic shadow; sneaking towards it and then quickly running away when their hands touched on screen.

As a non-native of Toronto, the commentary on the need to redefine what ‘home‘ means when far away from where you grew up was something I strongly connected with. In the midst of humour and occasional chaos, HOMEbody presented a touching image about the journey from rural youth to big city living and how where you come from will always be a part of who you are.

Details

HOMEbody lessons in prairie living… played at the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester St)

– Performances were September 20 to 22 at 8pm and September 23 at 2pm.

– Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and CADA members.

– Tickets are available online or by calling 416-204-1082.

 

– photo of Shannon Litzenberger by Kevin Konnyu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *