Review: Rare Mix (Toronto Dance Theatre)

Rare Mix is full of high energy and bold experimentation

At nearly 450 seats, the Fleck Dance Theatre is much larger than where I usually see work by the Toronto Dance Theatre.

In the past going to work by the TDT brought me to the Winchester Street Theatre. The latter, a deconsecrated church in Cabbagetown, has the stripped-down look of a workshop. There’s no curtain. The seats are temporary. A narrow corridor serves as its lobby.

The Fleck is a bit more sumptuous, with its blue suede curtains and carpeted everything.

When the curtains were drawn open on Rare Mix – running from November 6th to the 10th – I was a bit surprised: the performance area seeming smaller than that of the Winchester.

Silly comparisons like this – another, for example, was of the sound systems – went through my head for the first couple of minutes.

Soon enough I slipped into the world of Christopher House’s choreography. Four Towers by House opens the show.

Étrange by Jean-Sebastien Lourdais follows.

The performers in Étrange contort in every which way. It’s neither acrobatic nor balletic, nor rhythmic – though there’s this one bit of break dance-like popping.

At one point two of the performers are barking on all fours, at another they’re moving as though their limbs were made of rubber, swaying and scrambling around the stage.

And though the performers – Mairi Greig, Yuichiro Inoue, and Naishi Wang reprising roles from the premiere in Toronto earlier this year – are nearly nude, with intense lighting which hides nothing, the human form still never seems to look as unfamiliar as it does in Étrange.

I first saw Étrange, along with the two works by Christopher House in the set as part of Rare Mix, at the Winchester. At the time I think I was more startled by the work than impressed. Seeing it for a second time I fell in love.

Maybe it goes without saying: it is an absolutely enthralling work.

Particularly at this time of year, when it becomes apparent that I’ll be in stuffy, over-heated, under-circulated buildings for months to come, I just want to break loose of my cramped, inhibited existence. Étrange spoke to that need.

Against Sleep by Patricia Beatty follows.

Beatty’s work features a huge mast-like set by Ursula Hanes.

The dance, a duet between Danielle Baskerville and Michael Sean Mayre, is what I’d describe as a tense one.

Like Lourdais’ work, Against Sleep has a spectral soundscape. The ghostly occasionally piercing quality of both reminded me of Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood.

Vena Cava by Christopher House closes out the show.

In comparison to the other works in Rare Mix, House’s works came across as far more athletic and emotionally restrained. Not to say the dancers aren’t passionate. But the range of power and vulnerability seemed greater to me in the work of Beatty and Lourdais.

The juxtaposition of high energy, more conservative choreography found in the work of House, and bold, occasionally mysterious experimentation of Beatty and Lourdais makes for a challenging show. I’d recommend checking it out – and keep your eyes peeled for Impulse 2012 at the Winchester, the School of Toronto Dance Theatre’s superlative showcase of work. Impulse 2012 goes up November 29th until December 1st at the Winchester.



Rare Mix is playing at the Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queen’s Quay W.)
Rare Mix plays from November 6th until 10th 2012
– Showtime is 8:00 PM
– Tickets range from $19.00 to $40.00
– Tickets can be purchased at the door, or by phone. Please call 416 973 4000. Or contact the website