What makes us hold onto things, and what makes us let go? Movement company Frog in Hand explores this idea in Heart of Matter at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival.
Director/choreographer Colleen Snell stages this piece in an open gym with the help of seven dancers and spoken word artist Callahan Connor. The stage is empty except for cardboard boxes that the dancers climb around, on top of, and into, protecting their memories and boxing them in at the same time.
One feature that I particularly like was Connor’s addition to the show. Often, he’s the only sound that the dancers are moving to, either with his nursery rhyme-like spoken dialogue, or the percussive sounds that he repeats into his microphone. The costumes and lighting are equally simple, adding to the spare, dream-like quality of the show.
And then, just when I was really getting swept up in the movement, the dancers stopped dancing altogether. Each performer takes a turn sharing a story about an object that means something to them, and the feelings that linger with them as a result. The lighting is reduced to a flashlight in the dark, giving it the feeling of sharing secrets at a slumber party. I was surprised by the transition at first, but to the company’s credit, it felt quite intimate and natural.
The young dancers in the show are all athletic and strong, performing Snell’s abstract choreography with boundless energy. The contemporary dance is quite acrobatic in this show, with performers dropping to their knees and doing somersaults on the hard gymnasium floor without mats or knee pads. If the movements are difficult, the dancers don’t show it.
Be warned: the show’s venue (Trinity Saint-Paul’s Church) is not air-conditioned. I was a puddle of sweat by the end of the show, and I wasn’t even dancing! I hope those dancers hydrated properly. So, make sure to fold your Fringe program into a fan before you get to the heart of the matter in Heart of Matter.
- Heart of Matter plays at Trinity St. Paul’s. (427 Bloor St. W.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- The Festival reports that this venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Thursday July 4th, 9:30 pm
- Friday July 5th, 9:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 9:30 pm
- Monday July 8th, 9:30 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 9:30 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 9:30 pm
- Friday July 12th, 9:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 9:30 pm
Photo of dancers provided by the company.