Just in time for New Year’s here’s a roundup of moments from this year’s dance roster – ten to be precise – that resonated and have stayed in my memory. In no particular order, this is a variety of rich works that engaged me, made me gasp, roar with approval and be transformed.
~ There’s something uncanny about Montréal-based Japanese dancer and choreographer Tomomi Morimoto’s genuinely spellbinding performance in Inhabitation. It’s a goose bump experience, steeped in powerful transformation and illusion.
~ Drawn from writer Robert Walser’s short story The Walk, London-based Siobhan Davies and David Hinton created All This Can Happen, an intriguing art film culled from a deep trove of archival photos and footage. Time seems to slow, expand and freeze. Split-screen technique conveys the idea of passage. The pacing is deeply felt, and I particularly enjoyed how detailed and attuned the material was to physicality and awakening.
~ Nobody Likes a Pixelated Squid, created and performed by Emmanuelle Lê Phan and Elon Höglund, co-founders of Tentacle Tribe of Montreal, is seriously good, full of very physical hip-hop virtuosity and pure, youthful energy.
~ Unflinchingly, Dana Michel offers an abrasive, edgy performance in Yellow Towel. Using lifetimes of black social isolation, withdrawal and imagination, she lures you in. It’s a gut punch steeped in stereotypes of black culture, echoing imbalance and a lively contrariness, and infused with attitude. Michel is making work like nobody else.
~ Stripped to its essence and devoid of artifice, influential British dancemaker Wendy Houstoun’s creates a singular connection in 50 Acts, a dense piece about the constructs of theatre and notions of aging. It’s playful, political, sometimes overwrought and absurd, and filled with dramatic poetry and prose.
~ Shantala Shivalingappa’s expert Indian classicism invigorates the stage. She gives a thrillingly precise and masterful performance in Akasha, and, more particularly, in the mesmerizing final section of the piece, in which she appears out of the shadows in silhouette.
~ The stirring Michèle Febvre, a new-dance star in the 1970s and ’80s who hasn’t performed publicly in years, illuminates Nicolas Cantin’s unadorned and quiet Cheese. The piece is all about presence, and it requires a performer who understands the frailty of the human condition. Cantin mines Febvre’s life, and the autobiographical narrative they share is both cherished and rueful. With subtle shifts in tone and inflection, Febvre demonstrates how to speak onstage, conveying something beautiful and at times haunting.
~ George Stamos’ Liklik Pik, a duet for the choreographer and dancer Dany Desjardins, is testament to his wild imagination. This series of squibs and sketches is tart, smart, absurd, blunt and funny.
~ Kiss and Cry, Belgians Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco van Dormael presented a superb and celebrated cross-disciplinary production, that combines film, dance, words and theatrical invention. Crafted with finesse and control, hands are the main performers in this tale of love, loss and brief encounters. Everything is filmed before the live audience, who are free to choose between the onstage goings-on and the screen action. I left the theatre in a state of breathless awe and sublime contentedness.
~ David Albert-Toth’s uncompromising La Chute reveals an uncanny ability to switch between innocence, anger, frustration, vulnerability and back. In the dynamic solo, which he performs, the dancer-choreographer with Montréal’s Parts+Labour Danse conveys a notion of smallness that encompasses and enfolds his entire world.
And since it’s the holiday season, I’d like to offer a bonus mention to this list:
The shifts in Lucie Bazzo’s lighting design for Benoît Lachambre’s Prismes made this a beautiful, illuminating piece. The spectrum of innovation was subtle and powerful, of the highest order, plunging us into the depths of perception.