Fresh forces give dance scene new jump

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      Critics’ Picks

      So much is happening on the city’s dance scene that this is only a taster of what is to come. On the one hand, you have new presenter DanceHouse bringing a worldly air to local stages, with big productions like the U.S.–African collaboration Les écailles de la mémoire (The Scales of Memory) and, in February, the first visit here from Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company. On the other, you have a new generation of local innovators stirring things up with bold new styles that are intensely urban and spectacularly physical. For proof, check out Josh Beamish’s Move: The Company and the 605 Collective at Dances for a Small Stage, or Amber Funk Barton in December. In short: get in on the action before everyone in town discovers it.

      Dances for a small stage 19
      (Thursday and Friday [September 11 and 12]
      At the Legion on the Drive) Still the best bang—and best time—for your dance buck. Just $15 buys you admission to the retro-atmospheric Commercial Drive digs, where local and visiting troupes proceed to pummel the poor little stage. The Draw: The chance to scope out three of the city’s hottest new dance companies in one place: Josh Beamish and his Move: The Company, the 605 Collective, and Ballet B.C. star James Gnam’s the plastic orchid factory. Target Audience: Dance fans who don’t have to drink to have a good time, but choose to.

      Nine Sinatra songs
      (October 2 to 4 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts)
      Expect sheer elegance as Ballet British Columbia dancers float beneath a gigantic mirror ball in tuxes and gowns, all set to the sounds of Old Blue Eyes. The piece, while not exactly new (it premiered here 25 years ago), is an audience hit wherever it goes. The added bonus on this BBC season-opening program is Dominique Dumais’s Petrouchka: if you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat. The Draw: Ever heard of Twyla Tharp? Thought so. Target Audience: Wannabe Rat Packers who keep their iPods cued to Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits!

      Alonzo king’s lines ballet
      (October 9 and 10 at the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver)
      The San Francisco–based troupe brings its rare meld of ballet and world influences to town for the first time. SF Weekly promises “the beauty and grace of the typical ballet performance, but there’s something feral, primitive and ultimately more captivating”. The Draw: Rasa, the program’s key piece, finds the common ground between classical ballet and the rhythms of tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. Target Audience: Global citizens whose bookshelves are lined with dog-eared Frommer’s guides.

      Les ecaIlles de la memorie
      (The scales of memory) (November 7 and 8 at the Playhouse)
      New presenter DanceHouse establishes its large-scale, global vision of the art form. Scales brings together Senegal’s Compagnie Jant-Bi and its acclaimed artistic director Germaine Acogny with New York’s Urban Bush Women and choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Dance Magazine says, “Most of the work is stunningly beautiful, but Zollar and Acogny do not stay away from history’s violence.” The Draw: Stunning dance fraught with deep questions about the tormented relationship between America and Africa. Target Audience: Politically engaged arts fans who don’t like to turn their brain off when they go to a show.

      (November 11 to 15 at the Vancity Culture Lab at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre)
      In this exploration of fathers and sons, veteran Vancouver contemporary dancer Ron Stewart and choreographer Jennifer Mascall use video projections to bring to life a paratrooper, a remittance man, a cowboy, and a wannabe hip-hopper. The Draw: How often are male issues and personas delved into in the dance world? Target Audience: Guys, and the gals who love them.

      Elegant Heathens
      (November 13 to 15 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)
      Thanks to Deborah Dunn’s background in visual art and set- and costume-design, the former Vancouverite’s dance works are always sumptuous looking. This time, Elegant Heathens tells the satirical story of a hedonistic family in the final throes of excess. The Draw: Elaborate historic costumes; crystalline strains of Antonio Vivaldi and Henry Purcell; and the lighting of a Caravaggio painting. Target Audience: Peter Greenaway fans who really like to go for b’roque.

      (December 3 to 6 at the Firehall Arts Centre)
      Amber Funk Barton scooped the people’s-choice award (with Shay Kuebler) at this summer’s Dancing on the Edge festival—and for good reason. Anyone lucky enough to have caught the street-dance-jacked Status Quo will be waiting for her next work, Risk. It follows the story of five 20-somethings who are struggling with information overload. The Draw: Funk Barton’s choreography is accessible in the best kind of way. Target Audience: Overwired urbanites.

      (December 12 and 13 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)
      In this exciting cross-country collaboration, Montreal’s Gioconda Barbuto (Les Grands Ballets Canadiens) and Vancouver’s Emily Molnar (Ballet B.C.) hook up with video artist–photographer Michael Slobodian on a piece about the passage of time. The Draw: The dynamic duo promises to double your usual dance-going pleasure. Target Audience: Dance aficionados searching for the meaning of life.

      Wen wei dance
      (February 24 to 28 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s Historic Theatre)
      Ballet B.C. alumnus Wen Wei Wang presents the theatrical vision commissioned by the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award for 2009. Expect elongated limbs, animal attraction, and the visual magic that’s characterized hits like Unbound. Giorgio Magnanensi’s score and Kate Burrows’s costumes promise to add to the dramatic effect. The Draw: Seeing what this star talent can do with the big budget the award allows. Target Audience: Eye-candy addicts who despise spare productions.