Review: The 9th! (ProArteDanza)








The 9th! is a sombre piece, rich with movement and emotion

ProArteDanza celebrates its fifteen anniversary with the Toronto Premiere of The 9th!a take on Beethoven’s most beloved symphony. Presented at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre, eight dancers take on this virtuosic contemporary modern choreography.

ProArteDanza always does a great job leading audiences of all levels through contemporary dance. In this performance, they provide strong program notes which give great insight into Beethoven’s symphony, the choreography’s theme, as well as break down the symbolism within the four sections of the work. Although ready and inviting of a new audience, the heavy hitters of Toronto’s dance community are in attendance as they know they are always in for a treat.

The choreography is by the company’s artistic directors Roberto Campanella and Robert Glumbek. The 9th! conveys a fight against injustice and oppression based on Campanella’s personal experience defecting from Poland during the Cold War. It is also inspired by a visit to an exhibit he attended in Berlin in 2011, which showed the grim image of families being separated by the Berlin Wall as it was being built.

When you walk into the theatre, chairs are placed at the front of the stage tossed in all different directions. The use of chairs in the work is quite beautiful and unique. Dancers seamlessly interact with the chairs, sometimes initiating daring falls while standing on them; at other times, they act as a barrier between dancers during duet sequences.

The dancers quiver, seize and move with tension and pain, embodying an inner struggle. At times they manipulate each other’s bodies like jello, weightless yet firm, entwined yet free. When they move as an ensemble, there is almost a groove, a support system, bodies swing side to side in unison; however, these moments are fleeting.

Projections are a large part of the work. A strange lighting pattern is projected through the piece, later revealed to be a light shining through a wall rife with chairs. Projections are also used at times to show live video recordings of dancers present on stage. Their video image repeats twice behind them, however, the video has a slight delay in timing which creates a cannon in their movement. Any throw of the arm, painful grimace or tremble is intensified as it repeats each time through the projection.

Although I believe they had more in mind with projections and digital technology than they were able to present (the program lists seven specialists from the Screen Industry Research and Training Centre, although none of the technology was anything new or special), the work is quite beautiful on its own. A sombre work, yet rich with movement and emotion.


  • The 9th! is playing until November 9th at Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay W).
  • Shows run till Wednesday to Saturday at 8 pm.
  • Ticket prices range from $20 – $50.
  • Tickets are available online, or in person at the box office

Photo of Connor Mitton by Alexander Antonijevic.