Touch, conceived by Guillame Côté, is a 45-minute dance show about communication and connection between two people. A partnership between Lighthouse Immersive Artspace and Côté Danse, it shares the space of 1 Yonge St. with the heavily-advertised immersive Van Gogh exhibit known for its room-sized projections. Featuring similarly large-scale projections by Thomas Payette of Mirari Studio, the 360-degree experience packs a lot of sensory input into a short amount of time. It’s playful and fun.
The audience sits around the centre of the space in comfortable, distanced seating. The dancers perform inside the circle, occasionally racing through the chairs to grab a wall or hide in a corner like recalcitrant children. The effect is one of immediacy and connection, despite the large, warehouse-like playing space. My guest remarked that she had never been so close to dancers during a performance, which radically ramped up the excitement. It’s especially invigorating after such a long time away from in-person performance.
Three pillars divide the room. We’re warned that we will not be able to see everything at all times, but reminded that our chairs rotate, and there is always something to look at. It’s true that some moments are obscured by the pillars, depending on where you’re sitting, but my guest observed that it was fun to imagine what was happening and suddenly seeing a limb pop into view. The dancers are also in constant motion, and what is obscured one moment becomes visible in the next.
There are two rotating casts of dancers; we saw Natasha Poon Woo and Larkin Miller. The dancers are extremely talented, displaying an impressive, practiced ease with each other. They create a tug of war of tension and release with fluid, balletic movement. Dressed in simple white strips of fabric, they cavort in the sand heaped around pillars, balance on each other’s bodies, and become an extension of the moving projections that respond to their gestures.
The storyline (by writer Richard Ouzounian) is somewhat opaque, but I read it as a twinning of the evolution of a relationship between two people with the evolution of humanity’s place in the universe. Projections suggested a beginning big bang, leading to the growth of an ancient forest from star stuff, and ending with a focus on the human form in an era of rapid discovery and ingenuity.
The relationship between the dancers is as fluid as their movements, providing moments of romance, friendship, and what could be parent-child interaction. It’s a constant negotiation between the desire to be together, even to disappear into another person, and the desire to stand on one’s own.
My favourite moment was a humourous one, with Poon Woo’s character teasing Miller’s to follow her backwards and forwards, never quite succumbing to full contact. I enjoyed the bit of levity, which broke up some of the heavier concepts and showed a lot of personality and tenderness.
As well, a moment where the stage fills quickly with a ground cover of stage fog provides the entertaining image of the dancers crawling about under the clouds, with only the crowns of their heads occasionally peeking out for our tracking purposes. It’s a reminder that laughter and goofiness are equally vital parts of the human experience to grand philosophy. It would have been great to see more lightness and tonal shifts like this throughout.
Though you’re allowed to take pictures during Touch (and it is highly Instagrammable), I didn’t actually notice a lot of people doing so. Admittedly, it’s hard to get up the nerve to snap pics when the dancers are so close by, but it was an encouraging sign of a focused audience more starved for humans than screens.
At the conclusion of the dance, audience members are invited to play for about 15 minutes with some of the interactive projections, meaning that you can watch the dancers have fun without feeling deprived. The show also comes paired with a small Mikhail Baryshnikov dance photograph exhibit, so arrive a bit early to see that as well.
Touch is a unique experience, and often strikingly beautiful. For all the technology, the best part is the closeness to the two very human dancers in the middle of it.
- Touch plays at Lighthouse Immersive Artscape (1 Yonge St.) until November 7, 2021.
- Shows run Wednesday-Sunday. Wednesday-Thursday shows are at 7:00PM and 8:30PM, Friday-Saturday shows are 7:30PM and 9:00PM, and Sunday shows are 6:30PM and 8:00PM.
- Tickets are $50-100 and can be purchased online.
- The show features large-scale projections, strobe lighting, quick lighting changes, stage fog, and some loud noises.
Photo of Larkin Miller and Natasha Poon Woo in Touch by Dahlia Katz