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BWW Review: Community and Unity Overtake Oppression in THE 9TH!

BWW Review: Community and Unity Overtake Oppression in THE 9TH!

ProArteDanza's latest work, choreographed by Roberto Campanella and Robert Glumbeck, is the impressive result of over a decade of collaboration between its renowned creators. The piece is set to Beethoven's beloved 9th Symphony, and in line with the music, the story unfolds in four movements. Exploring themes of individual versus community, human connection, and breaking down barricades - literally and figuratively - the work is a demanding, moving piece featuring an impressive ensemble.

Dancers Taylor Bojanowski, Sasha Ludavicius, Ryan Lee, Daniel MacArthur, Connor Mitton, Jake Poloz, Kelly Shaw, and apprentice dancer Kurumi Yoshimoto are evenly matched whether performing solo, in pairs, or in the especially memorable group sequences. While the story begins frantically, and themes of desperation are present up to the end, there's a great deal of synchronization in group dance pieces that makes the fluid, swaying, sometimes jarring movements incredibly striking. Shaw solos in a moment where chairs, the only props used throughout the performance, are lined up by ensemble members to create a path. Shaw carries a certain sorrow in her movements and mime that furthers the dark aspect of the story's lore.

MacArthur also acts as a pseudo-lead, and is a grounded presence whenever onstage. He and the other male ensemble members are also tasked with supporting a huge number of grabs, lifts, and drags - which require just as much control from their female counterparts. Campanella and Glumbeck have created an incredibly demanding piece to match the demanding, difficult reputation of Beethoven's 9th. Dancers appear exhausted at the end of each movement, but must be commended for never pausing, never slowing down, and rarely having the chance to exit the stage for a break.

Costumes (Krista Dowson-Spiker) are simple, muted clothes that don't stray too far from everyday appropriate wear - they're simple, but work well with the ideas of oppression the story suggests. Projection work (credited to a team from the Screen Industry Research and Training Centre in collaboration with OccupiedVR) is simple and effective, especially the slightly back-lagged video display of the dancers in the first movement.

The simplicity of ProArteDanza's production really lets the technical and demanding components of the dance shine through, and the story's open messaging lends itself to several comparisons. The past is littered with examples of regimes rising and people rising higher to reclaim freedom. These issues aren't even confined to the past - they're still going on today, and unfortunately, will continue to happen unless a global sense of community and unity like THE 9TH! exhibits becomes reality.

ProArteDanza's THE 9TH! runs through November 9 at the Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Photo credit: Alexander Antonijevic

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