Review: Voyager (Toronto Dance Theatre)

Image of company dancers from Voyager

Toronto Dance Theatre explores human movement and motion at the Winchester Theatre

Leaving the Winchester Street Theatre, it struck me that a converted church seemed fitting for what I had just seen. Working with all of the Toronto Dance Theatre company members, Ame Henderson’s Voyager was almost religious in its dedication to their theme.

The question posed in publicity about Voyager was “What would happen if you never stopped moving?” My initial gut response, albeit a pessimistic one was ‘nothing, we never stop moving’. Our hearts beat, our lungs pump, and our synapses fire we are constantly in motion. After seeing the show I realized what was missing from these press releases and e-blasts was the idea of constant motion at a single tempo.

This work felt like a child of its time; over the past year I have had many conversations about durational works that encourage a kind of meditation in the audience. What happens to the audience during these kinds of work and how does the audience choose to react? Because of the monotony of the dancing in Voyager done over an hour, I do consider it to be a durational piece.

After the performance was over my show buddy turned to me and said in disbelief was that an hour? It was, and it was painful to watch for the first twenty or thirty minutes, but then something changed. The dancers were still doing exactly the same thing, and the musician was still singing the same ridiculous song, and we were still sitting in our seats watching, yet something had changed. All of a sudden the chaos that we had been watching turned into human beings and personal journeys. Not life altering autobiographical journeys, but the struggles and joys of dancing straight for an hour.

I started to notice subtle facial reactions and the briefest hints of mimicry in the dancing. Through each of them working individually on the same task, collectively, the dancers’ personalities shone through unlike most dance work I have seen.

Once this shift occurred in how I was viewing the work, my eyes darted around the space in a much more engaged way. I saw actual people dancing rather than dancing bodies. Most often I was drawn to Mairi Greig. Of all the dancers, Greig seemed to be enjoying herself the most. Most dancers dance because they love it, but I find that in performance and in improvisational settings dancers tend to put on their serious face. Through her movements and subtle facial expressions, Greig conveyed a sense of exploration and joy in her dancing.

I appreciated Voyager as a piece of research, but as a performance I found it challenging to watch. As I was on my way home I asked my self a couple of questions: What was Voyager trying to do? See what would happen if a group of dancers and a musician came together and did not stop moving at a single unified pace. It is a very clear research objective. Did Voyager achieve its goal? Yes, so therefore it was a success. Aesthetically I found the work monotonous, that is to say that during the work I really wanted to walk out. Intellectually I really enjoyed the piece, that is that after the dancing had stopped and I was able to reflect on the work I came to appreciate its subtleties and found it quite stimulating.

Details

  • Voyager is playing at The Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester Street)
  • Performances run February 20 – March 1, 8:00PM Thursdays to Saturdays, with a PWYC Matinée on Saturday February 23 at 2PM
  • Tickets are $20-$26 and can be purchased online, by phone at 416.967.1365, or in person.

Photo of (L-R) Kaitlin Standeven, Yuichiro Inoue, Pulga Muchochoma, and Christopher House. Photo by Ömer K. Yükseker.