Review: WinterSong (Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre)

Photo of WinterSong ensemble

WinterSong graces Toronto stages with a somewhat alternative Holiday experience

There’s nothing better than than a little change in pace for the holiday season. Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre presents a night of dance in WinterSong at the Fleck Dance Theatre.

It’s a lovely evening that offers up something a little different for those who are tired of the same old December songs.

Performed by their young ensemble, WinterSong consists of five separate pieces inspired by diverse cultural and musical selections. Most of these dances are remounts, but that doesn’t lessen their beauty or the audience’s enjoyment.

Against the Dark (2010), choreographed by Colin Connor, kicks off the show on a very high note. In my opinion, it is the most stunning performance of the evening, combining two well-known myths from China and North American First Nations of how the sun ended up in the sky. Every movement evoked the motion of birds and the feelings of flight. It was the must-see of the night.

While WinterSong never quite flies to those heights again, it doesn’t disappoint. Instead, we get quite a nice showcase that I think can easily please most people. I don’t think that’s an easy feat at all, but that’s what the Contemporary Dance Theatre has done.

Doyne Suite (1994), choreographed by Kim Frank, and Nowell Sing We (1988) choreographed by Carol Anderson, are the most joyful dances in the collection. The dancers all but leapt across the stage in both with wide smiles on their faces. Unsurprisingly, Nowell Sing We has become a staple of the Contemporary Dance Theatre’s seasonal show, embracing a more traditional Christmas theme.

Mostly because I’m biased against conventional and overused Christmas themes, I definitely preferred the Eastern European inspired liveliness of Doyne Suite—something that you don’t get to see or hear every day.

Which leaves, unfortunately, what I thought to be the weakest parts of the show for last. To Repel the Demons (2013)—choreographed by Kevin Wynn—and Until the Sun Comes Back (2016)—choreographed by Ryan Lee—edge a bit more into the abstract. I’m not a dance person overall, so I usually find these styles less accessible and ultimately less impactful.

But that, of course, is just my opinion. There’s still a heck of a lot worth watching on stage, especially when it comes to such talented young dancers.

WinterSong is a really excellent showcase of emerging artists in a professional company. If you are looking for something family friendly and a little different from the holiday norm, this may be the perfect show for you.


Photo of WinterSong ensemble by David Hou