At the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts South Lawn on Friday, June 20. No remaining performances
It’s hard to imagine a more serene way to greet the season than Dances for a Small Stage’s Summer Lovin’ show at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.
In the gorgeous golden light of sunset falling across the emerald lawn, an array of dancers turned Deer Lake Park into a series of intimate stages or “rooms”. Audience members travelled around the vast grounds on foot, led by a golf cart (and aided by an attendant with bug spray, if needed).
The setting proved magical, making it a strong contender for the biggest star of the night. The collaboration between producing partners MovEnt and the Shadbolt was inspired, and the viewers (including the unsuspecting dog walkers who happened upon the spectacle) were left with many fantastical, ethereal images. Those started with Ballet B.C. alumna Makaila Wallace twisting and turning across the grass, barefoot, toward a “stage” marked off with rose petals on the grass. Others included Lina Fitzner in a black gown whose enormous train caught the wind like a parachute, as flecks of cottonwood puff floated around her and two herons soared overhead. And then there was the eerie scene of Julianne Chapple, in a white ballroom dress, rolling around the top of the stone veranda wall of Ceperley House like a ghost from the mansion’s past.
Wallace was one of two former Ballet B.C. members making their independent debuts on the mixed program, and her short work packed a lot of passion and artistry. Created in a choreographic collaboration with Simone Orlando (also an alumna of the company), Mondnacht opened with opera singer Willy Miles-Grenzberg wandering onto the petal stage barefoot, and launching into a heartfelt rendition of Robert Schumann’s achingly romantic lieder, with Candy Siu accompanying on the grand piano nearby. In a white blouse and skirt that gave her the look of a woman from Schumann’s imagination, Wallace found a fitting transcendence as she glided over the grass, ending in an unforgettable image, tucked behind her singer (the voice of love) as he scattered rose petals from his hands.
Fellow former Ballet B.C. corp member Maggie Forgeron’s dancers, Ryan Genoe and Alexis Fletcher, found a surreal beauty and striking vocabulary in Blind as the Night That Finds Us All, as a gust from the lake made the trees that surrounded them tremble while they moved around on their secluded patch of park. Genoe reached deep inside himself for the strange, physically demanding choreography, at times jutting and bending his legs like an arachnid, or opening his mouth in silent screams, all set to the glacial strains of Sigur Rós.
Other highlights included a magnetic Fitzner playing with the sculptural costume designed by Alice Mansell, pulling its black skirt over her head and lurching down the lawn pathway like a demon, then twisting its train up around her legs and piling it over herself like a dark mound, with only her convulsing pale limbs showing. And another of the most transporting moments of the night was the creative collaboration between Shanto Acharia on cello, Meredith Bates on violin, Elisa Thorn on harp, Britt MacLeod singing, and Dayna Szyndrowski providing the rhythm by tap-dancing on three tidy little platforms. Located in one of the expansive park’s hidden gardens, the unlikely quintet was hypnotic as it interpreted Thorn’s lushly haunting compositions.
Elsewhere, Thoenn Glover and Arash Khakpour cavorted casually on a geodesic playground structure while a head-miked Emma Postl sang from high in its web.
Choreographer-performer Chapple mounted an ambitious tribute to the mansion’s past that started strongly, with the spectre rolling around in her layered white skirts, but lost its spell as it wandered into hooded religious figures and frat partiers. Karissa Barry ended the night, as twilight fell, with a clubbier, avant-garde work in progress for doppelgängers Lexi Vajda and Jess Wilkie.
With all these locations, dancers, musicians, amplified musical pieces, and hefty instruments, Dances for a Small Stage pulled off a big feat with Summer Lovin’—although the bigger one, the perfect weather, came courtesy of Mother Nature herself.