Review: SPRING DOUBLE BILL at Toronto Dance Theatre

Dances are in bloom at TDT's spring production

By: Apr. 14, 2024
Review: SPRING DOUBLE BILL at Toronto Dance Theatre
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Toronto Dance Theatre’s Spring Double Bill, highlighting East Asian choreographers of different dance backgrounds, is as welcome as a spring bloom. The two trios run the gamut from serious to irreverent, but both highlight dance as a way to connect, whether between the present and past self, or between an outsider and host.

KIOKU NO MA 記憶の, which references the Japanese terms Ki (to record or write down) and Oku (memory or recollection), is a victory lap choreographed by eighteen-year veteran TDT company dancer Yuichiro Inoue, his first full dance work presented in his final year with the company. The memories indicated by dancers (Megumi Kokuba, Peter Kelly, and Roberto Soria) are inscribed through shadows, the dancers creating sculptures of rotation. They move synchronously at first, slowly unsynchronizing as a clock chimes. They extend support in different combinations, cradling each other at the point of collapse.

KIOKU NO MA’s most striking image is through its use of light and shadow, particularly during a solo for Kokuba. These light and shadow effects were so intriguing and memorable that I found myself wishing that the costuming (designer Valerie Calam) was more integrated into the visual world of the show. The bright light that illuminates Kokuba as she rotates creates a large, crisp shadow, projecting her form into negative space. You may find yourself watching the shadow instead of the dancer, the projected memory instead of the present action. At moments, it almost seems as though the shadow dancer makes slightly different movements than the person in front of it, an impossibility…or is it? Later, in a duet, the shadow used is fuzzier, indistinct; it blends the dancers into one, and then disappears entirely.

The quirky ALIENS, by team KINAJ (Kin Nguien and AJ Velasco) is even more memorable, featuring three otherworldly beings (Neil Lordson Tangcuangco, Ayano Okubo, and Matthew Morales) who attempt to familiarize themselves with Earth after their ship crash-lands on our planet. The aliens sport cyber raver gear (designer Juliette Chan), metal highlighting a different aspect of each. A fun aesthetic Chan’s costumes present two-thirds of a see/speak/hear no evil triad, with goggles on a soft hat, a pant leg full of large grommets, and a metal chin that looks like the invention of a diabolical orthodontist. As we enter the space, they rotate inside a circle made of standing light fixtures; the strips of light are half spaceship, half tanning booth. The dancers rotate as though controlled by cogs, a touch creating a directional change.

KINAJ make full use of the angular potential of the Winchester Street Theatre’s large, bright dance space. Moving almost as one, the aliens stage what resembles a prison break, aiding each other in escaping detection from blinding flashbulbs and pressing themselves against the wall. They range around the room, reminiscent of a suspenseful, high-stakes video game, before finally coming to a rest in front of the audience. When they seem able to breathe for a second and take stock of their situation, the self-discovery and attempts at communication begin and the atmosphere morphs from fear to delight in performance. Climbing into the audience,

Okubo scrapes long, pointed fingernails against each other rhythmically, like one might employ a musical washboard, to her increasing delight.

From a nearly conjoined trio, they separate entirely, each taking an aisle and finding individuality and joy in their own repeated expressions and movements. Eventually, the bleacher segment becomes a concert of interweaving syllables and exclamations that invites emotional if not physical participation on behalf of the audience. Through art, simple or complex, it suggests, we can even bond with interplanetary beings.

The contemplative mood of KIOKU NO MA 記憶の and the playfulness of ALIENS make for a fun combination as we head into warmer times. The connections they share might cause you to feel less alone in the passage of time—or in the universe.

Photo of Neil Lordson Tangcuangco, Ayano Okubo, and Matthew Morales in ALIENS by Kendra Epik


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