All posts by Mark Mann

Everyday Oppressions (The Cheshire Unicorn) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Everyday Oppressions by The Cheshire Unicorn

In the closing monologue of Everyday Oppressions, a work of dance-theatre by The Cheshire Unicorn on stage at the Toronto Fringe Festival, audience members are invited to acknowledge their privilege. Let me do that now: I’m a straight white man in my early thirties. I am not routinely subjected to the type of everyday oppressions that are the subject of this performance.

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Review: Gridlock (Larchaud Dance Project)

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This immersive dance performance explores pleasure from aggression on stage in Toronto

Art worlds tend naturally to implode. Whatever the medium, practitioners veer toward making work that’s best appreciated by their peers, not wider audiences. It’s an understandable impulse and can lead to exciting work, but ultimately it has a shrinking effect. After a while, only insiders pay attention.

Contemporary dance in Toronto seems to have suffered this fate. The audiences are small, the runs are short, and the money is scarce. Since 2004, Larchaud Dance Project has made a concerted effort to push back, combining mainstream influences with contemporary techniques to entice new audiences to dance. Their latest offering, Gridlock, showcases the exciting in-house style that has emerged from this effort.

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Review: This Is a Costume Drama (The Dietrich Group)

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Dance ode to playing dress-up, This is a Costume Drama plays on stage in Toronto

This Is a Costume Drama is not a costume drama. There are lots of costumes in this gruellingly fun piece of dance theatre, making its world premiere at the Harbourfront Centre, but no drama. In order for there to be drama, there has to be something to care about. Something has to matter.

Of course, no costume drama is going to call itself a costume drama. So what is this show, if not that? It’s a display. Choreographer DA Hoskins and his collaborators in The Dietrich Group offer audiences little else but a vision of their own droll posturing. They’re good at making a spectacle of themselves, and no doubt some people will enjoy watching them do that.

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Review: locus plot (Peggy Baker Dance Projects)

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Peggy Baker’s newest dance piece takes on mathematics as aesthetics on stage in Toronto

Veteran choreographer Peggy Baker has been creating dance in Toronto for more than forty years, but until now has only made shorter works, most of them solos. She’s an artist who understands the power of doing just what she means to do, no more and no less. It takes courage and intelligence to be that clear.

But with every choice she’s made over the last four decades, it seems that something else has been at work for Baker, something slowly building beneath the surface that’s now being let out.

On April 24, locus plot debuted at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, Baker’s first ever full evening ensemble performance, and her biggest, longest, and most ambitious work to date. What inspired this sudden, late career expansiveness? Mathematics.

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Review: Me So You So Me (Out Innerspace Dance Theatre)

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“Hallucinogenic” dance piece lights up the Harbourfront Centre stage in Toronto from April 15-18.

Someone I know was born this past weekend, and I’m told that when she was pulled from her mother’s body, the lights in the operating room were all shining very, very brightly. That’s what the world is like: when it isn’t dark, it blazes terribly.

That’s also what the opening of Me So You So Me, a beautiful piece of dance theatre by Vancouver’s Out Innerspace company, is like. Though technically a 60-minute duet, the dynamic between the two dancers is interrupted from the outset by a lively third element—the light.

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Review: Ce n’est pas la fin du monde (Sylvain Émard/Harbourfront Centre/NextSteps)

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Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre presents Sylvain Émard’s Ce n’est pas la fin du monde as part of its dance program

The world feels strange. The air seems thick with unknowns: frequencies we can’t see, invisible clouds of data, other people’s secrets. Everything is changing so quickly, and there are so many questions that we hardly know how to ask. Is there something we’re supposed to be doing? Some insight we’re missing, or some revelation waiting to happen?

Montreal choreographer Sylvain Émard‘s Ce n’est pas la fin du monde (It’s not the end of the world), performed one night only at the Fleck Dance Theatre on February 28 as part of the Harbourfront Centre’s NextSteps program, brings audiences face-to-face with the uncertainty of our anxious zeitgeist. It may not be the end of the world, but it’s not the most comfortable place either.

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Review: Vincent Mantsoe (Danceworks)

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Dance virtuoso Vincent Mantsoe wows Toronto audiences at the Harbourfront Centre

The word “virtuoso” is one that has understandably lost its impact. Like all superlatives, it’s easy to toss around, and if it ever made readers perk up, it doesn’t anymore.

But when Danceworks curator Mimi Beck writes that Vincent Mantsoe — performing his two-part show NTU and Skwatta at Harbourfront Centre Theatre until January 31 — is a dancer of “breathtaking virtuosity,” she’s just stating the facts. He’s incredible.

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Review: I’ll Crane for You (Christopher House/Toronto Dance Theatre)

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Toronto Dance Theatre’s Christopher House performs I’ll Crane for You, a piece created with Deborah Hay

Back in the early nineties, a famous American choreographer named Deborah Hay developed a revolutionary new process for creating solo dance performances. In her technique, she coaches dancers to shed all their habits and cherished ideas, and instead to move perpetually and fearlessly into the unknown. The dance that results is an unfiltered and uninterpreted flow of personal discovery.

This weekend, the celebrated Toronto choreographer Christopher House, Artistic Director of Toronto Dance Theatre since 1994, performs I’ll Crane for You, one of three works that he’s created in collaboration with Hay since he began studying with her almost a decade ago. The performances run until Sunday at the Winchester Street Theatre.

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Review: A Christmas Carol (Soulpepper)

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Soulpepper’s Christmas Carol is “An Outright Pleasure from Start to Finish”

If “humbug” were a word that people still used, it would come in handy right about now. One doesn’t have to be a miserable soul to feel irritated by Christmas, or at least, skeptical of some of its gifts: the manic shopping, the bad music, the cheap sentiments.

But there’s no denying that some of the traditions are beautiful and satisfying, not least of them the annual viewing of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Soulpepper has brought back their adaptation by Michael Shamata, and even for the Scroogiest among us, it’s an outright pleasure from start to finish.

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