Review: Persefony Songs (Toronto Dance Theatre)

Toronto Dance Theatre presents a a dance piece inspired by Homer’s Odyssey

Persefony Songs, is a beautifully reimagined work of Christopher House’s Dora nominated Persephone’s Lunch (2001). Initially inspired by the epic of Homer’s Odyssey, the work has been repurposed eighteen years later to create a new hour-long piece as part of Toronto Dance Theatre’s reimagining repertoire project presented at the Fleck Dance Theatre.

The space opens with dozens of wooden skids hanging from the ceiling. In the back corner of the stage we find a six-member band, dressed all in black, facing the audience. In another corner, a dancer lays face down on a long table surrounded by red apples. The remaining eleven dancers are below and to the side of the stage. They begin to jump up one by one to settle into statuesque shapes before all joining together at the long table.

Beautiful tableau sequences are interspersed with highly physical and controlled choreography. The Toronto Dance Theatre company members perform effortless balances and graceful jumps all while maintaining an incredible focus and presence on stage. Long gesture sequences fill the entire space as all twelve company members perform them while walking in prescribed patterns. The gracefully controlled chaos is familiar to what I find through many of House’s works.

The musicians on stage are a Toronto Indie band known as Bernice, whose whimsical music is a perfect pair for the work. As stated in the program, they generally offer their own ‘cracked version of pop music’ and were delighted to hear House describe a need for a ‘fake medieval band.’ Although I hear these descriptions in the music, I am more inclined to describe them ambient jazz-pop, a very peaceful and pleasant listening.

Although I was not present at the 2001 work that this show was based on, House references it as being very much of its time. Approaching this new work, House decided to foreground sensuality and de-gender the roles of his performers, which I find to be very much of our current time. Closer to the end of the performance, the dancers openly change outfits from white and nude materials to bright reds. The sequences following this clothing change include intimate partner work in which performers seamlessly balance on each other in intricate and sensual ways.

Although I found some sequences went a little longer than needed and wished for a stronger ending, Persefony Songs makes for a nice relaxing night at the theatre. The show is playing until March 9th, however, I was delighted to learn that it will also be streamed online on March 8th with services provided by the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company. Although there is no replacement for the live experience of these delightful dancers and musicians, I love that the company is opening the work to being accessible online.

Details:

  • Persefony Songs is playing at the Fleck Dance Theatre (Harbourfront Centre, 207 Queens Quay W, Toronto ON).
  • It is playing till March 9, 2019 at 8:00pm.
  • Tickets are $20 – $45, available online or at the box office.

Photo provided by Toronto Dance Theatre.

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