TDT ends it's season with explosive juxtapositions
March 23, Toronto Dance Theatre
WORDS BY MILES FORRESTER
Peter Kelly, Yuichiro Inoue, Megumi Kokuba, Rachana Joshi, and Purawai Vyas in “helix” choreographed by Atri Nundy. Lighting design by Noah Feaver. Costume design by Valerie Calam. Photo by Marlowe Porter
Convergent Divergency is the kind of title that would be familiar to anyone who's ever had to put a group of artists together. It sounds like theory and it's open enough for most practices to reside in its dialectic. That said, the success of Toronto Dance Theatre's last show of the season owes a small part of its success to the seed that title planted. Atri Nundy's helix (a Bharatanatyam-informed minimalist exploration of forms) and Danah Rosales' GIVE ME ONE (a joyous exhibition from Toronto's kiki ballroom scene) are both excellent works. When paired, they're an incredibly cohesive program. It's not that one departs from the other, or one creates the ground for that departure; each piece has something revealed by their compliment.
Peter Kelly, Yuichiro Inoue, Megumi Kokuba, Purawai Vyas, and Rachana Joshi in “helix” choreographed by Atri Nundy. Lighting design by Noah Feaver. Costume design by Valerie Calam. Photo by Marlowe Porter
helix begins with Megumi Kokuba centre stage, spotlighted, in a posture of arrested movement. The performers surrounding her (fellow company members, Yuichiro Inoue and Peter Kelly, along with guest Bharatanatyam dancers, Rachana Joshi and Purawai Vyas) move so slowly, both forward and back, that the minute torsion in Kokuba's waist is genuinely surprising. You'd regret missing it, but you'd also regret focussing and missing the whole composition. Eschewing any kind of pyrotechnics (that comes later) helix highlights the ensemble's attention and peripheral vision. Atri limits the vocabulary to movements that feature the spine: bends, twists, crouches, and one (and only one arm) being raised by each dancer. Using these building blocks, they create eclipses, chimeras, and architectures where fingertips converge (hey, there you go!) across the space of the stage. Composer, Nancy Thavaruban, creates looping figures featuring cellist, Dante Alaimo, that keeps the intensity just below the surface, this is a meditative piece but it's in no way sleepy.
Megumi Kokuba and Rachana Joshi in “helix” choreographed by Atri Nundy. Lighting design by Noah Feaver. Costume design by Valerie Calam. Photo by Marlowe Porter
The second movement, Metronome, foregrounds a pulse, with each member cycling through numbers out loud in individuating rhythms, paces, and limits (5, 6, 9, maybe more). Like the introduction, one performer will take your attention, leading you to their terminal number, and another dancer will interrupt and confuse you as a listener. When Thavaruban's pulse stops, and the dancers return to their first formation in silence, a mixture of relief with sustained tension remains.
Roberto Soria, Kelly-Ann Johnson, Devon Snell, Erin Poole, and Jocelyne ‘Jaws’ Cardenas in “GIVE ME ONE” choreographed by Danah Rosales. Lighting design by Noah Feaver. Costume design by Diséiye. Photo by Marlowe Porter
After a short intermission, the doors burst open with house beats by GIVE ME ONE's composer, myst milano, beckoning the crowd inside. The dancers loom over, greeting us as we come in, “Don't be Shy!” Garments provided by stylist, Diséiye, drape from and dot the railings and stairways all the way back to our seats. Once everyone’s resituated, the dancers dress and showcase their outfits to us individually, “So warm!” company dancer, Roberto Soria, exclaims, stroking a humongous lime-green puffer coat. This instrumental hospitality is not only an introduction to the personae and trappings of ballroom culture, it creates a genuine euphoria within the audience. Following the rigorous calm of helix, Danah Rosales has landed a perfect punchline.
Roberto Soria, Jocelyne ‘Jaws’ Cardenas, Erin Poole, Devon Snell, Kelly-Ann Johnson, and Matthew ‘Snoopy’ Cuff. Photo by Marlowe Porter
Comprised equally of company members (Soria, Devon Snell, and Erin Poole) with stars from Toronto's ballroom scene (Kelly-Anne Johnson, Matthew ‘Snoopy’ Cuff, and Jocelyne ‘Jaws’ Cardenas) GIVE ME ONE is structured around vignettes. There's a hilarious dueling read between Snell and Poole, Snoopy’s Solo to “That’s The Way Vogue Goes” by Vjuan Allure, silver runways glowing under Noah Fever’s lighting design, and ultimately, a climactic battle royale. Each section builds on the other, not only showcasing the moves that define ballroom but also how community is formed through loving combat. When Jaws lands the first dip and the audience starts screaming, it feels earned. The controlled chaos of intersecting limbs, spins, and percussive dips also contains moments of synchronized motion, cohering and veering out. Maybe this is the moment the entire evening catches onto itself as an organic whole. From these dynamic poses to helix's assemblage of postures, recognizing this continuity feels like discovering a new element.
Matthew ‘Snoopy’ Cuff in “GIVE ME ONE” choreographed by Danah Rosales. Lighting design by Noah Feaver. Costume design by Diséiye. Photo by Marlowe Porter
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