Innovative and exciting dance programming continues with Canadian Stage at Toronto’s Bluma Appel Theatre
It has been on my bucket list for years to get to see a Compagnie Marie Chouinard production, but every time I have had the opportunity, something has stopped me from being able to go. So when I was given the chance to see The Golden Mean (Live) on Wednesday night at the Bluma Appel Theatre I was overjoyed.
One of the reasons I have always really wanted to see Marie Chouinard’s work live is that even from simply watching videos of her choreography, I am often left speechless. Intellectually I do not always follow her ideas, but on a physical level I feel very moved. But it can be challenging to translate such a visceral experience into words.
Chouinard’s work is known for being of an otherworldly nature. She transforms theatres and dancers through design and movement. Her concepts are often abstract but realized in a visually stunning, often shocking, manner.
On Wednesday night the Bluma Appel Theatre had been stripped almost bare. A giant catwalk extended out into the middle of the auditorium, dividing the audience in two. Some of the audience was also sitting on either side of the stage where traditionally the wings are positioned. Pitch black walls were contrasted by stark white floors and framed by five vertically positioned televisions. Six oversized rolling lamps also moved throughout the space.
The ten member cast was minimally dressed in sheer, golden-hued shirts and mesh tights with strips of vertical fringe along the bottom. Atop their heads sat beige masks and short blonde wigs. The ensemble gave them quite a nymph-like appearance.
This nymph quality was further enhanced by the fluid, fast and all together otherworldly style of movement present in much of the work. The dancers floated through the space often entangled around one another in spectacularly bizarre ways. The stage seemed to be constantly shifting as dancers moved in and around it, often changing elements of their costume and shifting set pieces in the process. Funny glasses, long wigs and Steven Harper masks were just some of the many props which caused chuckles to ripple throughout the room.
The element that had me the most intrigued though was the direct-feed video taken from the back of the stage and played on the five televisions. The camera would focus in on elements of the performance which were not prominently visible from where I was sitting. It was an added layer of penetration into the work which I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of.
I spent the duration of the show unable to pry my gaze from the stage. The Golden Mean (Live) is a piece filled high with layers of depth and complexity yet presented stylistically in a very pure aesthetic. I feel like intellectually it was far too much for me to absorb in just over an hour, but physically, emotionally and even spiritually the message was crystal clear from beginning to end. It was impossible to watch and not become invested in the performance.
This is the second time that Canadian Stage has had Compagnie Marie Chouinard as part of their season. I have to say that Canadian Stage’s dance lineup has been some of my favourite dance programing Toronto has had to offer in the past few years. Considering that they are primarily known for their theatre season, they are greatly succeeding in expanding their repertoire to include dance works. Bluma Appel Theatre was packed on Wednesday night and if this kind of innovative and exciting dance programming continues to be presented by Canadian Stage I am sure that their houses will continue to remain full.
- The Golden Mean (Live) is playing until May 12 at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St E)
- Shows are May 10 and 11 at 8pm and May 12 at 2pm
- Tickets are $22 to $99 with $15 tickets available for individuals under 30
- Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 416-368-3110
photo of Lucie Mongrain and Carol Prieur by Sylvie-Ann Paré