2018 PROGRESS REVIEW: Contemporaneity 2.0 (Anandam Dance Theatre)

Two dance programs come to Toronto’s Theatre Centre

Contemporaneity 2.0, playing at the Theatre Centre as part of the Progress Festival, has two different Programs, A and B, both produced by Anandam Dance Theatre. On opening night we saw Program A, Gandhari. Unfortunately, the most interesting part of the event for me was the land acknowledgement by Gein Wong.

If you go to the sort of events that I do, land acknowledgements are pretty commonplace (and very important!). Gein, though, infused hers with invigorating passion and reference to  current abhorrent situations, such as that of Colten Boushie. Gein is one of two directors whose work is featured in Program B of Contemporaneity 2.0.

I am not an expert on dance, but I usually enjoy it: I love to watch bodies moving in emotion and storytelling. Unfortunately, I failed to see the emotion or story in this piece. It seemed to me, and my companion, to be rather static.

The dancer (Brandy Leary) begins by caressing a band of cloth across the front of the stage, before tying it around her eyes.  She then proceeds to explore the stage in very slow movement.

The set here is quite striking. In centre stage, a curtain of bells hangs in decreasing lengths from the ceiling, begging for ringing out. Littered around the floor are silver cylinders that glow light at certain points during the performance. Leary manipulates these cylinders in various ways during the course of her dance.

Live music is always a welcome aspect of any show, and Parmela Attariwala performs lovely mournful violin and other ambient sounds. Sadly, the effect, along with the very slow movement of the dance and the darkened stage, was soporific to my companion and I.

Gitanjali Kolanad’s choreographic work must have been painstaking, and Leary obviously has great control over her body. What didn’t make this piece work for me is a combination of three things: the lack of an arc (a beginning, middle and end);  the movement was uniform and lacked thematic development which made it difficult for me to maintain engagement; it was also often hard to see what was happening at all, given the lack of light on the stage.

I’m sure other audience members felt differently, and Program B of Contemporaneity 2.0 is a whole other show that might be very different.


Photo of Brandy Leary by Walter Lai