May 15, 2014, 7:45pm. I am greeted by an unusual buzz. A festive, excitingly chaotic atmosphere fills the typically quiet Distillery District corridors around the Dancemakers Centre for Creation. Members of the Toronto dance community drift excitedly from one old friend to the next in the manner of social butterflies, while a group of hopefuls squirms in line, their names on the waiting list for a coveted seat. Older & Reckless, veteran dance artist Claudia Moore’s brainchild, is celebrating the launch of its fifteenth season, and the crowd’s appreciation for the long-running series is palpable and contagious.
For the occasion, Moore and Associate Curator Michael Caldwell put together a special program, which, in addition to the series’ commissioned four works, features an excerpt of Hamlet, stunningly recited by Shakespearian actress Bethany Jillard and a performance of Sylph(a), a 2013 GADFLY commission, compellingly delivered by Moore herself.
Jillard’s offering, the first of the evening, comes as a prelude to Carol Anderson’s Elsinore, a work originally created on dancer Julia Sasso as a commission for Dancemakers’ twenty-fifth anniversary in 1999. Now performed by the increasingly prolific Jordana Deveau, the work is revealed in its elegance and complexity, not having lost an ounce of relevance since its inception. The stage is bare, the costuming, simple: the choreography speaks for itself. A highly articulate mover, Deveau does justice to the poetry that inspired the work; her lines are efficient, the rhythm of her movement reminiscent of lyrical punctuation. If one is familiar with the contributing artists’ trademarks, the resonance of Sasso’s physicality can be felt throughout.
The premiere of Exil follows. The piece is a trio for two women and a man created by illustrious choreographer David Earle. Although brand new, the work appears to come to us from another era: well rooted within the modern genre, it brings forth the idiom’s grace and purity, reminding us of the ways in which its legacy keeps informing our contemporary works. Exil is performed by emerging artists Corrado Cerruto, Miranda Forbes and Megan Nadain; their apparent youth powerfully reinforces the delightfully anachronistic qualities of the choreography.
Also premiering was Troy Emery Twigg’s Iitahpoii which provided a gentle contrast with the other works performed. The solo work for actor-dancer Justin Many Fingers explores the concept of vibrations as communication systems between earth, body, soul and the universe, in the tradition of Blackfoot People. Opening on a tableau where Many Fingers goes through codified dance-vocabulary motions in what appear to be his rehearsal clothes, he is soon overpowered by a greater force, symbolized by a central pool of light’s sudden appearance and its accompanying audio static. His body arches backwards in response, metaphorically losing control over his conditioned being. Many Fingers’ successfully embodies primal states in a way that triggers the audience’s kinaesthetic empathy (empathy brought on by observing the movements of the dancers), but the work itself plateaus early on. It is as if the character has nowhere substantial to go once his initial transformation is completed, and one is left craving a sense of direction or one of clear climax as the work comes to an end.
Claudia Moore’s celebratory performance of Sylph(a) exposes the audience to a completely different approach to the solo form. Apolonia Velasquez and Ofilio Sinbadhino Portillo’s creation is delicate and feminine, humble in its conceptual simplicity. Moore’s solo defies time: the deft motor control she exhibits over her upper body stuns. Her long limbs seemingly express the myriad of nuances that come with a maturing soul; the joy that she puts into her movement is refreshing and communicative. The piece is heartwarming and lightly humorous, an apt precursor to the series’ cleverly programmed closing work.
Paul-André Fortier’s Tell is a crowd-pleaser, and for good reasons. Originally choreographed twenty eight years ago for the opening performance of the still-active company Montréal Danse, the work provides a rare combination of compositional intelligence, comedic absurdity and athletic prowess. Remounted on this year’s graduating class of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Tell features four male performers engaged in an escalating ego contest involving meaning-bearing apples. The level of athleticism displayed by the young dancers is commendable, as is the general tightness of their ensemble work, a testament to the rigour of their recently completed training program. On the evening I attend (the cast rotates over the course of the three-night show run), the performance of Marco Placencio stands out: the young dancer is fully committed to the piece; his demeanour is naturally comical and therefore compelling. Notwithstanding, all four performers show great promise.
As the show comes to an end, despite what would normally in the theatre be a sleep-inducing heat, the multigenerational crowd is just as excited as it was prior to its start, obviously energized by the works just witnessed. As I gradually make my rounds and inch my way out, the festive atmosphere I leave behind shows no sign of slowing down. Amusingly, I think to myself: the old and the young are indeed being reckless together.