Review: Program Three (Fall For Dance North)

Program Three of Fall for Dance North rounds out an exciting bill of theatre

Celebrating five years, Fall For Dance North returns to Toronto. Program three comes with a scene change, taking place at Ryerson Theatre instead of Meridian Hall. Fall For Dance North brings leading dance companies from all over the world to Toronto and makes them accessible to a wide audience as all tickets, for any night and any seat, are only fifteen dollars. Make sure to read our reviews of program one and program two.

This bill presents an international selection of current Indigenous dance expressions with works from New Zealand, Taiwan, Australia and the Lac La Croix First Nations.

The New Zealand Dance Company is back (the only repeat company in the programs), yet this time with a very different work. Māori choreographer, dancer and video artist Louise Potiki Bryant presents In Transit, a mix of dance and technology. Placed on small moveable scrims as well as the stage backdrop are projections created by Potiki Bryant. Heavy exhales pull performers through strong gesture sequences. A male duet appears as the two are intimately connected at what appears to be the forehead. Program notes share that this section was developed from the traditional sharing of breath in the nose-to-nose hongi greeting. The two dancers play gracefully with weight-bearing, intimacy and trust. Branches are both projected on the theatre scrims, and brought physically on the stage balanced by performers. I would love to have a look inside these rehearsals to learn even more about the culture. 

Cody Berry/ Northfoot Movement present Mani Deux. Dressed in nude leotards, a clump of intwined performers slowly walks towards the audience. They are joined on stage by Paul Geldart on piano and drums and later by Trio Jourdain, an elder of Lac La Croix with a traditional drum and vocals. The dancers lift each other effortlessly back and forth and continuously bring in beautiful battements in second. The program states the work is in honour of two-spirited people. Although it has a lot of potential, I feel that the performers could have been more connected to each other, which seems required for its content.

Jasmine Sheppard of Australia presents Choice Cut. Choreographing and performing (while six months pregnant) a heartwrenching performance art piece. Dressed in all white, she emerges from a large onstage clamshell. A mysterious black figure lurks around her, eventually stripping her of polished outfit with scissors in hand. Returning to the clamshell, mostly nude, she takes a paintbrush and black paint and begins to mark her own body. The black figure circles her with a camera in hand, and a video is projected on the back scrim of Sheppard so you can see a close up of her in this powerful act. A standout performance!

Finishing the program is LUNA by Taiwan’s Bulareyaung Dance Company. Just wow. Entering from all sides of the theatre and hunched over performers, wearing nothing but bright headlights and nude thongs. They sing complex polyphonic rhythms through their movement. The choreography transitions from slow simple-shifting geometric patterns around the stage, to robust movement and sound. Throwing their bodies, some seemingly possessed, while screaming intensely towards the audience. Although I don’t understand the language, I could feel their raw, honest and powerful performance. 

This program concludes all main stage performances for the 2019 Fall for Dance North festival. I am generally very picky about standing ovations, and this festival I have given three, which is usually my quota for the year. I left the theatre a little sad that it’s over, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed such an exciting week of dance. Especially being around such large audiences for the art form. The count down to the 2020 festival begins!

Details

    • Fall for Dance North is playing until October 6, 2019, at Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard St E).
    • Shows run nightly at 7:30 pm with matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm (various programs on different nights).
    • Ticket prices are $15 and are available online.

Photo of Jasmin Sheppard, Photo by Bruce Zinger.

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