Dance is both moving and accessible at Fall for Dance North
Celebrating five years, Fall For Dance North returns to Toronto at Meridian Hall. Although I was already in love with dance, I’ve fallen head over heels for this festival. Leading dance companies from all over the world are brought to Toronto and made accessible to audiences as all tickets, for any night and any seat, are only fifteen dollars.
This review will follow the first of the three thematic mainstage programs presented this week. The festival also provides free programming at Union Station, creating a unique opportunity to engage publicly with incredible dance artists.
Toronto Dance Theatre opens up the program with GH 5.0 choreographed by Hanna Kiel. Bright and colourful costuming mixed with lively choreography plays on the company’s 1983 signature work ‘Glass Houses,’ originally choreographed by long-time artistic director Christopher House.
The work builds in an energy that you can feel through your bones. Live on stage are four musicians, also dressed in pastel colours — performing music composed by electroacoustic percussionist Greg Harrison. The choreography showcases the dancer’s graceful individuality amongst its unison choreography; with a pleasant mix of geometrically pleasing formations, yet chaos in movement phrases that leave you wanting more.
Up next, The New Zealand Dance Company presents Sigan, a piece only possible through the performance of the most agile of bodies. Complete stillness and intense silence quickly transform into precise attacks, showcasing an astounding spryness. The movement is linear and angular, with an impressive level of controlled aggression. Choreographed by KIM Jae Duk, the contemporary choreography is mixed with his background in taekkyoen, a traditional Korean martial art.
With shivers down my spine, tears in my eyes, Skanes Dansteater’s Dare to Wreck took my breath away. Opening the second act, a duet, where one is wheelchair-bound, creates an incredibly intimate and entwined relationship. Pushing and pulling, falling, and extending past human limits, I felt suspended in silence and emotion through the unique duet. This honest and raw piece is performed and choreographed by Sweden’s Madeleine Mansson and Peder Nilsson. Ending with a deserved standing ovation, I will go out of my way to see this piece again.
Ending the program is Brazil’s Grupo Corpo, presenting Rodrigo Pederneiras’ Dança Sinfônica. Red curtains and bodysuits fill the stage. Quick feet and full-bodied group sections are interrupted by some of the most daring partner work I’ve seen on a dance stage. Performers seem to float through the air, almost as if a puppet without strings. This is a dream work – perfectly danced, placed, and choreographed. I could sit and watch its seamlessness for days on end.
The audience is filled with the Toronto dance community’s heavy hitters, as well as a new dance audience of all ages and backgrounds. A slight lack in typical audience etiquette makes this clear. The theatre is filled with a sea of coughs and sniffles, cellphones ringing, some chatter during performances, clapping at inopportune moments, and a mass (and this is not an exaggeration) of patrons entering the theatre following intermission’s last call.
Yet, I can’t help but laugh, as this is a fantastic feat. Getting new audiences out to dance shows has always been a struggle. The accessibility of this festival is not exaggerated and should be rewarded. Founded on the value that “dance is one of humanity’s most universal art forms” and manifesting this belief by enabling accessibility through cheap festival tickets, the festival is a success. I already cannot wait to see what program two has in store.
Photo of Toronto Dance Theatre’s GH 5.0, Photo by Bruce Zinger.