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Ballet Creole's Sankofa

Ballet Creole's Sankofa
Fleck Dance Theatre - Harbourfront Toronto
continues to April 17

(see full credits below)

Dancers are often called upon to flex their dramatic muscles along with all the others in their physical bodies. Sankofa, Ballet Creole's new spring show is really a showcase for the talents of their company in both respects, from feats of athleticism - which were impressive enough - to a real sense of emotive expression.

Ballet Creole are currently a mostly young company of engaging and athletic dancers whose total commitment not only to the individual pieces but the overall artistic vision was obvious from the opening piece, Dancing Spirits. Dressed in white, the dancers explored Afro-Caribbean traditions in a lively flow that included live drummers on stage and the vocals/spoken word of Consuelo Herrera, who told a story about the gods in Yoruba. (It helps to have Nigerian friends!)

That piece was neatly contrasted by the solemn and meditative Requiem for my Parents, set to the moody avant garde violin music of Estonian composer Arvo Part. This piece required a prolonged display of emotion on the part of the dancers, a visible effort, gasping, half sobbing in a very effective display that added depth to the mournful choreographic vocabulary of modern dance and ballet.

There is something elemental about the appeal of the drum, something that connects with the rhythm that lives deep in your gut - but even if I needed no convincing of the vital nature of drumming, Drum MasQ/TRANS-formation, the third piece, was still persuasive. Each of the dancers had lines that meditated on drumming as a lifeblood, as a force that can't be denied. The Creole Drummatix ensemble, on stage again, simply demonstrated the point, engulfing the audience in their mesmerizing polyrhythms as much as the dancers themselves. It ended the programme with a display of athletic prowess and a passion that was entirely convincing.

I'm becoming quite fascinated with lighting design these days, and I give kudos to Brad Trenaman for highly atmospheric concoctions that went from a sun dappled jungle floor to foggy and moody and then some. Elegant costumes (see full credits below) added to the overall effect.

The standing ovation was highly deserved.

Credits:

Dancing Spirits (2004)
Choreographed by Patrick Parson
Collaborators Newton Moraes & Consuelo Herrara
Dancers Yuhala Muy, Gabriella Parson, Megan Evans, Mikhail Morris, Alistair Graphine, Mafa Makhubalo, Bogkabane Rakeepile
Music Patrick Parson, Walter Mclean, Hudson Forde, Mikhail Parson, Consuelo Herrara
Costumes Erin Daley

Requiem for My Parents
Choreographed by Gabby Kamino
Dancers Yuhala Muy, Gabriella Parson, Mikhail Morris, Danah Rosales, Mafa Makhubalo, Samantha Mcloughlin (understudy)
Music Arvo Part
Costumes Diane H. Sobers

Drum MasQ/TRANS-formation
Choreographed by Patrick Parson
Dancers Yuhala Muy, Gabriella Parson, Megan Evans, Mikhail Morris, Alistair Graphine, Mafa Makhubalo, Bogkabane Rakeepile
Music Patrick Parson, Walter Mclean, Hudson Forde, Mikhail Parson
Costumes Christopher Pinhero, Deanna Brown

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