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Notes from Dance Ontario DanceWeekend

Notes from Dance Ontario DanceWeekend
January 22 - 24
Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre (Toronto)

I had another arts drenched weekend, much of it spent at the Fleck Dance Theatre taking in a smorgasbord of dance all weekend. I was able to take in a few hours at best a day, but a small bites menu of 20-25 minute sets meant I could still experience a wide range of styles and flavours even on budgeted time. It was great to see the place nearly at capacity, with just as many people coming in as leaving at any given moment, and a long line up to get in at the start of every day.

Please check out the invidual companies at the links - many of them have upcoming shows.

January 22

Opening night!

Ballet Creole white, floaty garments, rhythmic movements that follow the polyrhythms churned out by the 3 musicians at the back. The dancers were athletic and the effect becomes infectious, and impossible not to feel like moving along with it. Taken from a variety of African traditions, Dancing Spirits kept building to a high energy finish.

Thrill the World, participants from the On the Move Conference, including kids from Jade's Hip Hop Academy and Oakwood Collegiate - an energetic version of Michael Jackson's Thriller to the original choreographer by Michael Peters along with Jackson himself. Great costuming added to a fun piece.

Canadian Children's Dance Theatre - I'm not sure what I was expecting from this group, but I know I was left quite impressed with the talented young women (Victoria Scanlon, Midori Mukai, Francesca Chudnoff, Taryn Na, Kendra Epik and Ellis Martin-Wylie) and the contemporary dance I saw on stage. Arena, the first piece they showcased, was about the constant frictions, intersections and disconnections of modern life, and it was performed with a sense of conviction and grace. (Image below of unrelated ballet dancer by Frode Inge Helland.)

Later, they also performed Ancient Trinity along with high school students from the London (Ontario) area. The piece was inspired by the magnificent Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland, built 1000 years before the first pyramids and incredibly, in perfect alignment with the winter solstice sunrise. Every year at winter solstice people gather to witness the sun enter through the roof box and travel down the passage eventually illuminating the back of the tomb for a brief 17 minutes. They speculate that perhaps this sacred time was to allow their dead to pass from the earth to the other world. It's a nice story, and a really lovely and uplifting piece.

MOonhORsE Dance Theatre displays what founder Claudia Moore describes as body poetry with "mature" performers, and it's an apt metaphor for their performances of two short pieces. THe first was a pas de deux between an eager woman and reluctant man in ordinary street garb, full of moments of humour and expressive choreography. Moore herself then did a solo piece with a cellist playing the Bach Cello Suite #14, an excerpt from a work that was performed in the Music Garden last summer. Highly expressive work with a nicely nuanced dramatic sense.

Ballet Jorgen gave us classical ballet at its best, from the sumptuous costumes to the elegantly restrained athleticism of its dancers. They performed two scenes from an upcoming production of Cinderella with a wonderful sense of theatricality and drama about it along with fine dancing. Ballet Jorgen's mandate, if you're not aware, (which I wasn't) is to perform only original choreography.

Saturday, January 23

For me, this was contemporary dance day, with some really cool variations and flavours.

The Honeycats were a real crowd pleaser, an ensemble group that put on a high energy version of hip hop, modern jazz and stret jazz, gorgeous girls and guys who were athletic and dazzling. My favourite piece was to the music of Marilyn Manson's Beautiful People, where a clever use of black costuming and spot lighting created a rhythmic movement of faces, lower arms and lower legs.

Desiraeda Dance Theatre was a technically impressive group, performing 4 love themed excerpts to jazz music. It was athletic and quite dramatically expressive at the same time. Cutting edge contemporary jazz dance that's accessible and appealing.

Claude Watson/Earl Haig Dancers - the high schoolers in this group really blew me away, particulary in the second piece, choreographed by a grade 12 dance major (Lee Levine-Poch). The first piece was a rousing gospel to John the Revelator, another crowd favourite. If this is the future of dance in this area, we can expect great things to come!

Helix Dance was another group that dazzled with their athleticism and technique, this to a series of modern jazz & blues tunes. There were no weaker links at all in this troupe as far as I could see, and the pieces were quite interestingly choreographed by Linda Garneau, with dancers pairing and unpairing, entering and leaving the stage in an constant panoply of motion.

Sunday, January 24

A nicely mixed bag.

Ritmo Flamenco dazzled the crowd with a bevy of supremely elegant ladies who proved that a long slinky dress is just as sexy as the barely there costumes sported by many of the other dancers. Where ballet is all about elegant restraint, in flamenco that initial restraint builds to a passionate climax - all while never losing the upright, graceful posture of the dancers. The live guitarist (Roger Scannura) added a whole dimension of depth. Makes me wish I had time for lessons!!

Cadence Progressive Contemporary Ballet were young and athletic, and performed an innovative piece called Decorus Chaos - reflecting the "chance encounters that put us in contact with those that become the fabric of our soul". That's an apt description of the work, performed to the music of Vivaldi, with an ever evolving line up on stage of dancers pairing and unpairing, and patterns of movement picked up and dropped in an intriguing display.

Andre Nann Dreamwalker Dance presented 4 pas de deux performed to and inspired by the lyrics of the Tragically Hip's Gordon Downie, including Nann and Brendan Wyatt. The choreography was highly original and very expressive, including moments of both humour and pathos. A very talented lady and someone I'll definitely keep an eye on in the future. (Check the link for upcoming shows.)

Dancetheatre Daivd Earle presented Serious Games (parts I & II), a piece originally commissioned by the Children's Dance Theatre. Six female dancers in the same dress, slightly different colours - movements as abstract as the avant garde music (by Erkki-Sven Tuur). It had a mesmerizing effect and was a great close off to a fantastic weekend.


What Else Is Hot This Week?

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company Spring 2013 Toronto Performances

From a media release:

The new season brings
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company
to new heights and new audiences

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
April 25-28, 2013 - Annual Toronto Season - World Premiere of Portales

TORONTO : Following on the heels of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company's (EESDC) 30th anniversary year where its production Aguas/Waters was named one of the top five dance shows of 2012 by NOW Magazine, the early months of 2013 are full of excitement and possibility for Esmeralda and the company, which brings the finest flamenco and Spanish Classical Dance to Toronto stages.

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
Company dancers Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés perform Spanish Classical dance with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir for A Night in Madrid featuring the Iberian flavoured music of composer Luigi Boccherini who made his home in Spain. His work is infused with the sounds of Spanish and gypsy folk music.

March 20-24 …

Polina Semionova to Appear as Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre

From a media release:


New York - Polina Semionova, a principal dancer with Berlin State Opera Ballet, will debut as a Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre for the 2011 Metropolitan Opera House season, it was announced January 14, 2011 by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. With ABT, Semionova will perform Kitri in Don Quixote at the matinee on Saturday, May 21, opposite David Hallberg as Basilio, and the dual role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake on Saturday evening, July 2, opposite Hallberg as Prince Siegfried.

Born in Moscow, Semionova studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School before joining the Berlin State Opera Ballet as the company’s youngest principal dancer. Her repertoire with Berlin State Opera Ballet includes Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya in La Bayadère, Marie in The Nutcracker, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Swanilda in Coppélia, Kitri in Don Quixo…

So You Can't Go: Six Ways To Travel Virtually

So You Can't Go:
Six Ways To Travel VirtuallyTravel is limited for most of us in the world these days. For Canadians, it depends on the province you live in, but with the border to the US still closed, and other options limited at best, virtual travel from the couch can provide at least a view with a difference at a time when you may well need it most. Google Cardboard – VR On A BudgetYou don't need a lot of cash to get into travel via virtual reality. Google Cardboard is a line of VR viewers that are, well, made of cardboard, and are priced starting at $12CAD.If you check out this link, you'll find out how to download the software to your smartphone.At this link, you can get yourself an actual Google Cardboard for a hands-free VR experience. Google Cardboard apps offer a variety of ways to experience our beautiful planet, including Google Earth itself, which can take you anywhere, along with apps to view museums and cultural artifacts, and more.Ascape VRAscape has a huge l…

Harlem Stage Digital Event: A Drop Of Midnight October 13 & 15 2020

From a release:Harlem Stage Digital Event:
A Drop Of Midnight
October 13 & 15 2020A two-part conversation with Jason ‘Timbuktu’ Diakité and his creative team around the developmental process of creating his autobiographical theater project, A Drop of Midnight. In this conversation Jason will take us on his journey to becoming one of Sweden’s chart-topping hip-hop artists and a best-selling author. He’ll also share the story of how a mixtape from Brooklyn traveled across the waters to the tiny village of Lund, Sweden and altered the course of his life forever. We will examine the impact of hip hop music and culture on the globe. How has hip-hop united communities of color globally?  How do you translate a personal story into a universal truth? How do you build a creative team? How has the current climate of social justice informed your artistic practice? Jason will read excerpts from the play and share some of the music. October 13—Part IIn this conversation A Drop of Midnight author…

Blues/Rock: The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now? (Independent / 24 July 2020)

The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now?
(Independent / 24 July 2020) Buy the CD Big vocals and infectious grooves make up this release from The Cole Patenaude Band. It's modern blues with a classic sensibility, anchored by solid musicianship and upbeat songwriting. 
Keyboard player Dean Thiessen and Patenaude on guitar trade off solos and melodic lines to keep it interesting through a range of bluesy style, incorporating rock and country, with a pop song sheen on songs like For the Money. Would You Be Mine is more Elvis-esque rockabilly, while How To Love is an acoustic song with folky storytelling lyrics and feel. 
Compromise is a standout track, with a snarly guitar line and a churchy organ swelling underneath a nice bluesy beat. Horns aren't credited in the notes, but I swear I heard some on this and a couple of the other tracks. 
As a husband, father, and full-time mechanic based in Langley, British Columbia, finding the time to make his music was a challenge…