You can practically feel nymphs peeking out at you from behind the trees surrounding the tiered, grass-covered stone seats. It makes the environment perfect for Dream in High Park.
Mukothô is a new collaborative dance work by Casimiro Nhussi and Pulga Muchochoma. It is the dance enactment of a Mozambican ritual from the Chuabo tribe. The elders call upon the ancestors for guidance in difficult times. Traditionally, new family members are sometimes welcomed in the ritual, or connections between generations are made through dance, song, and music. The performance of this ritual is sacred and playful. It taps into the universality and timelessness of the human condition in a breathtakingly relatable manner.
Nhussi and Muchochoma – also the dancers in the piece – are from Mozambique and currently reside in Canada. The dance celebrates their connection to their ancestors and homeland, regardless of where they live.
They are experienced dancers, their technique is flawless and confident. They exuded freedom and joy through their movements. I really enjoyed watching them dance. But the show’s real strength lay in its power to tap into the spirituality within all of us.
There is a truly magical moment where the audience is called upon to participate in the ritual. We are asked to chant a word of power in unison and punctuate it with two claps each time the person seeking to commune with the ancestors has corn starch thrown on them. While the mood stayed light, the audience’s collective spirit raised a powerful energy.
The show’s ritual tenor remained strong and consistent throughout, but there was also playfulness and whimsy. This was definitely not your solemn church service where laughter is frowned upon.
At one point, the deft drummer and multi-instrument musician – Kobèna Acquaah-Harrison – is invited to showcase his bruk out moves. Alas, it soon becomes apparent that his talents do not extend to dance. The dancers quickly invite him to resume his musician post. The whole bit is quite funny and charming.
Audience members have an opportunity to get up and dance at the end. Since I neglected to bring a cushion, this was enjoyable and a relief.
Don’t make my mistake if you see a show at High Park Amphitheatre. The stone seating is very elegant, but it becomes painfully apparent that our butts cannot appreciate the aesthetics by the end of an hour.
Mukothô has a surreal, dreamlike quality that taps into the timelessness and placelessness of human experience. No matter where or when we are, we experience the same uncertainty, impermanence and loss of control.
In that sense, Mukotho has a great deal in common with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play that inspired the name of the festival – Dream in High Park. It’s a perfect piece for this festival dedicated to the realm of the fantastical.
Mukothô wrapped on August 22, but Dream in High Park continues until the end of September. In addition to their own productions, this year, Canadian Stage has opened up the amphitheatre to several community partners across Toronto, including theatre, dance, comedy, musical performances, and more.
Everyone who has been missing live theatre should get the chance to see at least one show. Watching a show in High Park Amphitheatre at this time feels so separate from Toronto reality that it’s almost like a staycation from the pandemic.
- Mukothô is played until August 22, 2021, at High Park Amphitheatre (1873 Bloor Street West)
- Dream in High Park festival continues until September 25
- Tickets prices are pay-what-you-can (PWYC), suggested $5-$50.
- Tickets are available online.
Photo of Casimiro Nhussi and Pulga Muchochoma by Kevin Jones