Review: Amorous Playlist (Social Growl Dance/Citadel + Compagnie)

Toronto-based choreographer Riley Sims and singer Blunt Chunks collaborate on a new dance show

Photo of Blunt ChunksAmorous Playlist is a multi-disciplinary performance by Social Growl Dance and Blunt Chunks currently being presented by Citadel + Compagnie. The show is a collaboration between two emerging Toronto based artists – artistic director and choreographer Riley Sims and solo singer, Blunt Chunks which explores themes of love, lust, and heartbreak. It’s an informal concert-like experience, which, for me, felt a little too casual and lacking coherence.

When my guest and I walked into the theatre, it felt like a nightclub with the lights up. Chairs were arranged around three sides of the rectangular space. Iridescent fabric panels were hanging on the walls, and there was a small bar selling drinks. Electronic music equipment and a few guitars stood in one corner. A number of people, who we thought might be the performers, mingled with the audience members drinking beer. We weren’t sure what exactly was going on or when the show was going to start.

Then Blunt Chunks (who is also known as Caitlin Woelfle-O’Brien) came out, introduced herself, and started to play music. Chunks’ music was the highlight of the show for me. It was slow and ethereal, with an almost country vibe to it. Over the course of the evening she switched from electronic beats to acoustic and electric guitars and back again. Sometimes she sang standing at the front, sometimes lying on the floor, sometimes in the middle of the dancers. Her voice was haunting and mystical.

As much as I enjoyed the music, I found the dancing less satisfying. There were six performers who dance both individually and as parts of shifting couples. None of the relationships portrayed are very happy. There’s a lot of pain and tension. The movement is fairly standard modern technique with lots of contractions, spins, and heavy falls to the floor.

The dancers hang out around the edges of the space when they aren’t actually dancing. As mentioned above, at first, it’s unclear if they are part of the audience or not. They move back and forth to the bar, getting more and more beer, which eventually spills everywhere. At one point, two of them have a conversation while their colleagues are dancing. In general, I don’t have a problem with blurring the lines between audience and performer. But in this case, it seemed like we were watching a rehearsal or maybe the after party. I was just confused.

According to the press release the choreography and music were created separately but performed simultaneously. Which might explain why, to me, the performance felt disjointed. As we were leaving my guest said, “It was very ambitious.” And I agree. But I think Amorous Playlist tries to do too much and ultimately doesn’t hit the mark.

Details:

  • Amorous Playlist is playing until March 30, 2019 at The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance (304 Parliament Street)
  • Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm
  • Tickets are $25/$20 for Artists, Students, and Seniors
  • Tickets are available online

Photo of Blunt Chunks by Merik Williams