• The hardest thing to write is happiness. It represents stasis and in theatre – where movement is so important – it can spell trouble.

    With Arm's Length, Echoplay Theatre take on what I consider the holy grail of theatre writing, open a play with a happy, contented couple and somehow make them or their situation engaging. That’s why I never write plays about happy people. Or, if they are happy, there has to be some deep flaw – hopefully sexual – that will grab the audience. Of course, that may just fall under the category of “write about...

    Arm's Length, trying to get some control
  • Risk and bravery.

    Those are things that Artistic Producer Michael Rubenfeld identifies as the qualities linking the work included in this year’s SummerWorks Festival.

    Before coming to Toronto, SummerWorks was described to me as: “a fringe festival for professional companies”. While this is a bit imprecise (professional companies/artists also participate in fringe festivals after all) it does give you a sense of what it’s like. As a juried event, there is more control over the quality of the programming, yet SummerWorks is still imbued with that same sense of adventure that give fringe festivals their juice. It is...

    Any Night, Dual Minds photo: Stephanie Hall|
  • This is only my second dance review for Plank. With the first one, I neatly got out of any detailed analysis by talking about Areosia’s Cumulus in broad terms. I couldn’t actually see Cumulus so couldn’t comment on its shortcomings or strengths as a dance piece.

    Edge 4 provides a different challenge. A program of three works all unapologetically within the contemporary dance tradition. No tricky technology, no circus performers, no hoops of fire, simply young dancers dancing on the uncluttered, open space of the Firehall stage.

    So, what to do? I’m a playwright. All my foibles are contained in...

    Lunar Rouge, The Tomorrow Collective; photo: Chris Randle
  • It’s a mystery. Why does pure choreography sometimes create its own meaning, and other times leave you craving for context? For many in contemporary dance, the ideal is to let the movement speak for itself.

    When it works, it can be ecstatic – identification with the dancers can take you out of your own body. When it fails it can leave you feeling blank. Sometimes a story can hold the movement together, at other times providing context through psychological narrative (as in the ubiquitous ‘relationship’ duet), or through references to familiar gestural codes, can feel like too much information. Edge...

    Lunar Rouge, The Tomorrow Collective; photo: Chris Randle
  • Wadded plastic, descending airplanes, and dangling mikes: memorable images graced each of the three commissioned works in Dancing on the Edge's Edge 5. Made up of two duets and a trio – Co.Erasga’s Adam-Eve/Man-Woman (Part 1), Peter Bingham’s right in front of you, and Serge Bennathan’s Slam for a Timetraveller – the program chanced to follow a classic narrative arc, from emergence in the first piece, to greatest tension in the middle, and restoration of harmony at the end.

    The first and most visually arresting dance, Adam-Eve/Man-Woman (Part 1), opens with two figures conjoined at centre stage, each swathed in...

    Billy Marchenski and Alison Denham connect and disconnect in Adam-Eve/Man-Woman
  • Titus Andronicus at Bard on the Beach last night…

    I ran into Brendan after the show last night and here is our dialogue:

    - Well?  Did you like it? (this is Brendan)
    - It was clear, well paced, handsome and accomplished. (this is me)
    - That still doesn’t answer my question – did you like it?
    - They almost made me forget I was watching a show in a tent.
    - Come on, it’s a simple enough question, did you like it?

    I really had to think … did I in fact like...

    Titus Andronicus: it's bloody early, Allan Morgan (back), Russell Roberts, photo: David Blue
  • The tone for Industry of Dreams, the first of two performances in Edge Three, was set with an opening, deliberately amateur film of India’s daily life mixed in with dancing. Traditional theatrical dancing mixed with dervishes fade into scenes of people riding buses. The mood is set: This is India, and India is movement.

    Then three dancers make their entrance. The first one – Namchi Bazar, the choreographer of the Industry – wears a dark sari and carries a metal jug atop her head. Two others (Angie Cheng and Sara Wiskar), dressed in red saris, seem to be stoic, veiled...

    Namchi Bazar steps carefully through the Industry of Dreams
  • The Vancouver Art Gallery wants to become known for its collection of photography. This makes sense. Photography is an art-form at which Vancouver has become closely identified, as witnessed by the success of Jeff Wall and Roy Arden.

    It’s also fair to say that a strong visual aesthetic is one of the strengths of the performing arts in Vancouver. And it is perhaps a fair criticism that often there seems to be more concern about creating images that will make cool stills over the substance of the work itself.

    There were a lot...

    aeriosa, cool images; photo by audience member meg walker
  • Sometimes, when the curtain is drawn, you just know you're in for a good time. When the curtains move aside for Solid State's Take it Back, we are looking at a picture.

    Four dancers dressed-up as street kids from the 30's stand in a photographic pose. They stay that way for an uncomfortably long time, until some of the audience decides to take the introductory announcement to "make noise and have fun" to heart. But even through the hoots and hollers, they stand.

    Finally, JoDee Allen falls out of step. Her foot, pumping to the music, gets her going. Her...

    take it back, Helen Simard; photo: Melissa Gobeil
  • The Brian Webb Dance Company is 29 years old - experienced, mature, steeped in training and knowledge. And dancing is still Webb's announced and lived passion - he describes himself as a person who "lives for dance" in the performance I'm about to describe. But the full-length piece he created for the 10 for 20 Dancing on the Edge commission was strong in staged story-telling - and strangely weak in choreography.

    Nine Points to Navigate, a co-creation with soprano Sheri Somerville, was a presentation of searching, very personal narratives in which Webb and Somerville attempt to understand how their...

    Nine Points to Navigate gets emotional