Spring arts preview 2018 dance critics' picks: Season rolls out kitschy carpet, ropes, and a choir

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      As the Straight’s Spring Arts Preview hits the stands, Ballet BC is in the midst of premiering its monumental new story ballet Romeo + Juliet, the Chutzpah Festival’s programming is in full swing, and DanceHouse is getting ready to raise the curtain on Toronto Dance Theatre’s 50th-anniversary tour.

      In other words, it’s one of the busiest dance weeks of the entire year. But there’s more, much more, to come, as Chutzpah continues, the Vancouver International Dance Festival opens, and several companies plan an unusual spate of late-spring showings. Here are some of the standouts to watch for in the coming months.



      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from March 1 to 3

      Dance artist Amber Funk Barton’s group work is always fun to watch, drawing as it does on athletic contemporary movement, street style, and pop culture. But now, as part of VIDF, the talent behind Risk and The Art of Stealing is debuting her first full-length solo. She’s drawing on her own travels and Carl Sagan’s writings about our “vast” universe.

      The Draw: The cosmic and the personal.

      Target Audience: Sci-fi fans, wannabe astronomers, and travel junkies.


      Dance Double-Bill

      At the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre on March 10 and 11

      In this Chutzpah pair-up, Bulgaria’s Derida Company riffs on love as a disease in the charged duet F 63.9. It joins with Black Label, Jerusalem-based Machol Shalem Dance House artistic director Ofra Idel’s arresting solo for Tzvika Iskias, exploring the story of the performer’s immigration from Ethiopia to Israel.

      The Draw: Rare voices from across the planet.

      Target Audience: Global citizens and the culturally curious.


      Michael Slobodian


      At the Vancouver Playhouse from March 14 to 17

      Kidd Pivot artistic director and choreographer Crystal Pite and Electric Company Theatre cofounder Jonathon Young turn unimaginable grief into a dark existential carnival of suffering and survival.

      The Draw: The unforgettable, genre-mashing production arrives back in town trailing local and international prizes, including Britain’s highest theatrical honour, an Olivier Award.

      Target Audience: Those who know what it’s like to be racked by obsessive thoughts. And, of course, those lucky enough to score tickets to this sold-out show.



      At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre from March 15 to 17

      As part of VIDF, nine dancers flow across the stage in veteran New York City choreographer Young Soon Kim’s look at whether we can maintain our independence (“I”) when we form bonds with others (“you”, “us”, and “we”).

      The Draw: Modern dance as gorgeously fluid as it is finely crafted.

      Target Audience: Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship.


      Hardly Ever

      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from April 5 to 7

      Backed by chintz carpet and wallpaper, plus a spectacularly gaudy couch, four dancers pose questions, sing, and play on themes of truth and deception. Italian-born, Norwegian-based Francesco Scavetta’s company, Wee, has been creating buzz in Europe for years, and now he’s bringing his quirky genius here.

      The Draw: An outrageously kitschy stage set, with polyester-heavy costumes to match; and the chance to face big life queries like “Have you ever really liked a politician?”

      Target Audience: Adventurers who prefer their dance offbeat.


      Dorrance Dance

      At the Vancouver Playhouse on April 13 and 14

      South of the border, tap has rightfully been hoofing its way onto mainstream contemporary-dance stages, and now DanceHouse gives Vancouverites a lesson in one of the companies leading the way. Michelle Dorrance is the perfect ambassador for her art form: deeply respectful of its history, but boldly pushing into the future, as proven in this mixed program.

      The Draw: Her new, full-length Myelination, with live music by Donovan Dorrance, Gregory Richardson, and vocalist Aaron Marcellus, pushes tap-dancing to its technical extremes.

      Target Audience: Tap nuts, but also dance fans with a sense of rhythm.


      Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar's strange and primal Bill helps close Ballet BC's season.
      Chris Randle

      Program 3

      At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from May 10 to 12

      Ballet BC closes its season with two of its most striking works, Cayetano Soto’s dark riff on mortality Beginning After and Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s strange and primal Bill, as well as a premiere by artistic director Emily Molnar.

      The Draw: Molnar’s piece should be epic, with its dancers collaborating with the Phoenix Chamber Choir performing Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks’s haunting vocalise Plainscapes.

      Target Audience: Choral crowds who want to try out ballet, and ballet fans who want to get their choral on.


      Contes Cruels

      At the Firehall Arts Centre from May 23 to 26

      Les Productions Figlio choreographer Serge Bennathan takes inspiration from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and other texts in an exploration of courage and power.

      The Draw: The dance veteran’s blend of poetry, music, and dance is like no other.

      Target Audience: Bookworms and those who believe in fairy tales.


      Aeriosa's Second Nature
      Tim Matheson

      Second Nature

      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from May 24 to 26

      Aeriosa, Vancouver’s most gravity-defying dance troupe, is known for performing off skyscraper walls and along treetops. But for Julia Taffe’s new work, it moves indoors, using rope and rock-climbing rigging to create a piece inspired by the life cycle of bamboo. Composer Jordan Nobles provides the score.

      The Draw: High-flying dance that could only have been created on the West Coast.

      Target Audience: Mountain climbers, eco activists, and arts audiences who like their dance vertical.