Review: KIRA, The Path | La Voie (Lua Shayenne Dance Company / Luminato)

Percussionist Fara Tolno and a company of dancers opens Toronto’s Luminato Festival

KIRA, The Path | La Voie brings a lively and rhythmic energy to the Luminato Festival, with a mix of dancers and percussionist who perform Fara Tolno, choreography and composition. Tolno is a guest artist with the Lua Shayenne Dance Company, specializing in Guinean dance and music. Lua Shayenne, artistic director of the company, took to the Fleck Dance Theatre stage as a performer in the work.

The show opens with a line of musicians near the back of the stage, a solo drummer, Tolno begins and is joined in by the other musicians and dancers. Dance sequences are interspersed with solos for the musicians, providing time to change costumes and breath! The choreography is full-bodied, with beautiful rhythmic movement and lines travelling the entire stage. It requires a lot from its dancers, who you can see smile through the sweat on stage.

Although the celebratory and energetic movement was fun to watch, it’s simple vocabulary and formation choices were a little too repetitive to remain engaged. Some synchronized group movement were at times lost through small dancer mishaps, yet they were able to join back in quickly. Either shortening the piece or including more performances by the musicians would have strengthened the overall work.

The strongest moment of the night was Fara Tolno’s drumming solos. In the first act, Tolno, a charismatic performer, brings the djembe drum to center stage. Tolno is able to lead the audience through different reactions with nothing other than his drumming. At times the audience is in complete silence, hearing the echos of the drum through the theatre, at others, the audience happily laughs and claps along. During the second act, Tolno has a second solo moment, but this time I believe with a slit or log drum. He is able to engage the audience just as well.

As directed in the opening speech, there was a lot of audience interaction throughout the work as viewers clapped along and shouted out to their favourite moments. The dancers wear colourful costumes, and the lighting design highlights all the right moments. However, KIRA might be a fun piece to watch, yet maybe more-so to listen to.