New York City-based dance artist Belinda McGuire returned to her home town of Toronto recently to present The Heist Project, a project that highlights the importance of spontaneity when executing meticulously imagined schemes.
The result of three separate creative processes in which McGuire collaborated with commissioned choreographers, each piece on the program took the viewer in a diametrically opposite direction. Aside from loose references to stimulus-response mechanisms serving to link the works, the constant is soloist McGuire herself. A stunning mover of rare quality, it is logical to think that she is the jewel in this heist scenario.
McGuire’s astonishing technical control and wide dynamic range are obvious from the very beginning of The Eight Propositions, the first piece on the program. Created in tandem with Italian choreographer Emio Greco (alongside Dutch dramaturge Pieter C. Scholten), the piece implicitly exists in its own time, in its own space — both of which have defined, tangible qualities made obvious by the consistency of the movement vocabulary and Kate Ashton’s strategic lighting design. McGuire engages in a call-and-response exercise, delivering the material at a pace reminiscent of human conversation. The underlying sense of calm that she exudes accentuates her instinctual stop-and-go movement in a way that could have been dissonant. Instead, it is strangely reassuring: the audience, engrossed by the complexity and variety of McGuire’s responses to a world only she understands, never feels threatened.
Although it explored a theatrically opposite realm, McGuire applied that same underlying poise to Sharon Moore’s Anthem for the Living. Following a stunning visual opener (a seemingly endless rope slipping away from the hands of McGuire’s defeated, inert body), the piece displays a succession of quick, striking images until its conclusion. As if posing for snapshots in the midst of organized chaos, McGuire’s emotional expression transforms repeatedly over the course of this fast-paced, physically percussive piece. Moore’s unique choreographic style is a strong presence in the work. The frantic multidirectional movement has a numbing effect, until the dance’s steady output of stimulation pauses for a breath, but each occurrence of that breath has extreme potency. Aware of that compositional effect, Moore utilizes it strategically with McGuire posing three last times, holding each simple pose before the piece comes to an end.
Acting as the last element in a program of contrasts, Blue Solo, Joni-Part II, is a very short work. Proving Doris Humphrey wrong when she declared that “all dances are too long,” the end of this honest dance came as a shock, arriving unexpectedly quickly. It is as though Israeli choreographer Idan Sharabi wanted to offer to the audience just a hint of McGuire’s true nature before he had her wrap things up. Performed to Joni Mitchell’s All I Really Want, the piece, simply lit, radiates authenticity. Given that McGuire and Sharabi have known one another since their formative years at Julliard, it is reasonable to speculate that this authenticity is the result of a deep trust and understanding built over time between the two collaborators.
Wise in her commissioning choices and courageous for undertaking such an ambitious work as a solo endeavour, Belinda McGuire succeeded brilliantly with The Heist Project. Hopefully, she will visit home again, bringing more choreographic treasures with her.