Spring arts preview 2019 dance critics' picks: Shows step from paradise to tech nightmares
You want bold dance? This spring is full of fearless offerings—some funny, some elaborately visual, and some unabashedly strange. One Montreal icon has the guts to try to turn the historic painting The Garden of Earthly Delights into a wild dance tableau. A Japanese legend, meanwhile, brings on a nightmare world of technologically enhanced beings. And an Austrian innovator puts an ironic new spin on his homeland’s folk dance. There’s circus, there are club beats, and more. Hang on for a wild ride.
Vancouver International Dance Festival
At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, the Vancouver Playhouse, and KW Production Studio from March 8 to 30
Kokoro Dance’s all-embracing fest draws companies from across the city, the country, and the world. Local bright lights include Vision Impure’s Noam Gagnon and Inverso Productions’ Lesley Telford, while Tedd Robinson’s Ottawa company 10 Gates Dancing presents the mysterious Trust, complete with a gong. Japan’s butoh-driven Dairakudakan makes a long-awaited return with the cautionary AI tale Pseudo human/Super human.
The Draw: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you haven’t seen Dairakudakan’s legendary Akaji Maro stalk the stage in a fright wig and ghoulish white face paint, you haven’t lived; his new work will be an inspired spectacle. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Taiwan’s Tjimur Dance Theatre will be hauntingly hypnotic.
Target Audience: The adventurous, the curious, and the eclectic.
Compagnie Marie Chouinard
At the Vancouver Playhouse on March 15 and 16
With Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights, the Montreal visionary pays inspired, three-act homage to the 15th-century artist’s erotically deranged triptych. In a piece created to mark the hallucinatory artwork’s 500th anniversary, Marie Chouinard sends her dancers—white-powdered and half naked—cavorting across the stage, capturing all the sexual charge and surreal touches in Bosch’s visions of paradise and hell. It’s a DanceHouse presentation.
The Draw: Translating the elaborate painting through dance is something only the ever-audacious Chouinard could pull off.
Target Audience: Art historians, utopia seekers, and anyone who’s ever squinted in amused puzzlement at Bosch’s bird monsters and swollen strawberries.
Sons of Sissy
At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from April 4 to 6
Viennese artist Simon Mayer celebrates and subverts the folk-dance and -music traditions of upper Austria. At the same time, he’s sending up old-fashioned notions of masculinity. Think accordions and knee-slapping.
The Draw: Mayer, who was also a heavy-metal bass player and singer, is an art star in his homeland, and his work is funny yet razor sharp.
Target Audience: Österreicher and Schuhplattler fans.
At the Vancouver Playhouse on April 12 and 13
At DanceHouse, Momix artistic director Moses Pendleton blends ballet and acrobatics with dazzling lighting to create what can only be described as kaleidoscopic tricks of the eye. Human forms contort into blooming flowers, flying bats, and shifting abstract art.
The Draw: The sheer invention and the chance to experience wonder again.
Target Audience: Those who think they’ve seen it all, especially when it comes to “new circus”.
No More Fantasies
At the Annex on April 25
The city’s newest contemporary-dance company, Future Leisure, puts its own, innovative twist on the pas de deux—in this case, for two females.
The Draw: Expect the unexpected from emerging choreographer Julianne Chapple, who has an ability to put surreal signatures on even the most stripped-down pairing.
Target Audience: Dance junkies looking for a fresh new voice.
(At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from May 9 to 11)
After wowing crowds with 2016’s techno-driven Bill, collaborators Sharon Eyal (a former dancer with Batsheva Dance Company) and Gai Behar return with the North American premiere of Bedroom Folk, a bold mashup of music, dance, and light first staged at cutting-edge Nederlands Dans Theater. The program also boasts a world premiere by Vancouver dance veteran Serge Bennathan, rounded out by the return of Batsheva legend Ohad Naharin’s raucous Minus 16—another strong presence this season from the powerhouse Israeli company.
The Draw: Eyal and Behar’s work is the coolest thing happening on the Ballet BC calendar; with rave beats, pummelling technique, and sharp humour, it’s hip without even trying.
Target Audience: Club kids and those in the know.
Ashes for Beauty
At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from May 23 to 25
Here’s a rare West Coast overview of the work of prolific Calgary-based dance icon Davida Monk. She presents Ashes for Beauty, specially remounted for seven Vancouver dancers; she dances in a new solo by Alberta choreographer Helen Husak; and she joins a duet with local talent Arash Khakpour, in a Paras Terezakis work based on the Greek tragedy Antigone.
The Draw: The chance to see a long-time force on the Canadian dance scene, who’s collaborated with everyone from musicians to poets and visual artists.
Target Audience: Devotees of the mythical, the literary, and the natural world—some of her favourite themes.
At the Scotiabank Dance Centre on June 6 and 7
Asian-Canadian artists Peter Chin (Toronto), Hari Krishnan (Toronto), William Lau (Ottawa), and Alvin Erasga Tolentino (Vancouver) showcase everything from Peking opera to Indian classical dance as part of a Canadian tour.
The Draw: An overview of the influence of eastern dance forms on the contemporary scene here, featuring some exciting artists who are pushing traditional forms.
Target Audience: World travellers and dance enthusiasts who like to look outside of western borders.