Review: Light Years (Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre)

Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre showcases its young company members in Toronto

Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre (CCDT) presents Light Years at the Harbourfront’s Fleck Dance Theatre, a mixed dance bill showing the technical prowess and maturity of its young company’s members. All under the age of 19, the technically strong and agile dancers perform five works – two world premieres, two CCDT premieres and one returning piece.

The show opens with Alien Grace, choreographed by the artistic director of the company Deborah Lundmark. The main company members are dressed in sheer black, with bright colours muted underneath. A chorus dressed solely in black, shape the space in which the main dancers move through full-bodied and quick choreography. A comment on finding grace in unexpected places, the dancers move with full leg extensions and upheld arms before weighted drops to the floor. Music is composed by electric violinist Dr. Draw, who joins the dancers on stage through the intense crescendo.

My highlight of the show is Ryan Lee’s Less, performed by CCDT’s three male dancers. Pushing and pulling through beautiful partner work, the three males are dressed in light ripped jeans and pastel t-shirts. From fists upheld to full backward dives as if being hit, the works explore a personal journey through gender identity and toxic masculinity. A redefining of what it means to be a man after mirroring the more publicly acceptable version of physicality. A gorgeous beginning, middle and end.

The first act ends with RESET, the only returning piece by choreographer Roderick George. Although my least favourite of the night, I heard a young boy happily announcing to his family that is was his favourite at intermission. Program notes state it is a “sardonic riff on pop culture.” However, I found the music overpowered the movement choices. Featuring a Rihanna remix, as well as other trap/party music, more on the annoying end of the scale for its genre in which overly loud and repetitive noises take over the space. The costumes – although sheer and silver – contained so much fabric in its leggings that I found it hard to see the dancers’ legs. The choreography seemed overly repetitive, with hands being waved side to side and bourees as an overall motif. This was mixed in with random gimmicks and tricks like lifts, flips or drops.

The second act opens with a world premiere of Lacrimosa, choreographed by New York’s Nicole Caruana. Featuring six dancers, the piece is a journey at first through pain and suffering, a comment in strength and overcoming as it transitions into fun, joyous and quirky choreography. Dancers are mismatched in red and blue swatches of fabric. The work is another highlight of the show, as it displays the maturity of its dancers through its first half, which turns to just pure enjoyment, especially when seeing the smiles on their faces in the second.

Finishing off the night is the second world premiere, BYTIYE by New York’s Jennifer Archibald. The dancers stare down the audience, strongly standing still spread throughout the stage. The choreography is insect-like, quick and full of gesture sequences slightly altered to create incredible group images reminiscent of inkblot art. Breath helps to initiate dance sequences through the robust soundscape, which at first lacks an overall pulse. Intricate partner work intersperses fully synchronized full cast moments. Dancers achieve an otherworldly feel in which the title of the work – meaning to find a higher state of being is accomplished.

The beautiful works performed by an incredible cast and the standing ovation from a very supportive and loud crowd of parents and family members were lovely to see. Although the performers are young, you would never know with there performance capability, only given away by their fresh and sweet faces! 

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Photo by David Hou.