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Review - Toronto Dance Theatre's Remount of Severe Clear

Toronto Dance Theatre presents
Severe Clear
continues to November 20, 2010 at Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront

Severe Clear is Artistic Director Christopher House's ode and meditation to the stark beauty of the Arctic, inspired by a trip taken by several artists back in 2000. Intriguing, mesmerizing and at times punctuated by amusing moments, it's an entertaining and impressionistic piece that succeeds at evoking the grandeur of the far north - and human efforts to simply survive its extremes.

A voiceover that begins before the dance itself dispenses practical advice on bear encounters in the wild. The wintry and unforgiving mood is further set up by a spare stage with a backdrop and a multitude of ingenious ice blocks - inflatable plastic cubes and rectangles that were alternately toyed with and ignored during the course of the piece. Lights added a colour range from blue to blue/green and grey. Abstracted elements of the theme - bits of fur, monochromatic off-whites - turned up in the dancers' costuming.

The dance itself begins with a solo that becomes an ensemble piece and then duet by turns, offering a constantly changing tableaux of movement given life by the impressively athletic dancers. They were equally at home in the ensemble and more disjointed segments, from agitated to graceful, and at times they sang. The soundtrack went from spoken word (more bear advice, among others) to electronic music to natural sounds like water burbling, sometimes given rhythm via repetition.

I loved its sense of invention in the various ways the piece explored the different facets of that far north experience, and at 62 minutes, (no intermission,) I could've watched much more.

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