Fall Arts Preview 2019 dance critics' picks: Shows draw on science, calligraphy, and ancient cultures

    1 of 7 2 of 7

      Dance from as far away as Australia, Spain, and Brazil shares space with strong local premieres on this season’s roster. Stark and intense contemporary dance embraces the Aboriginal, the West Coast Indigenous, and the ancient Chinese, as well as concepts as far-flung as quantum physics and mortality.

      Dig in, and don’t forget the big Dance in Vancouver biennial showcase happening at the Scotiabank Dance Centre from November 20 to 24, a one-stop shop for the best of B.C. that also brings in presenters from across the continent and even farther afield.


      Kokoro Dance’s sweeping Reading the Bones opens soon.

      Téa Mei

      Reading the Bones

      At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre from September 18 to 28

      Kokoro Dance explores the stages of life with a cast of performers that has a 50-year age spread. Alt-composer Joseph Hirabayashi creates the original score.

      The Draw: With 30 years of primordial, butoh-inspired dance under their belts, arts veterans Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi know their subject matter intimately.

      Target Audience: Those convinced dance can age like a fine wine.


      Still Reich

      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from October 2 to 4

      In its Vancouver debut, Brazil’s Focus Cia de Dança rolls out four pieces inspired by the pulsing rhythms of minimalist composer Steve Reich.

      The Draw: “Keta”, set to Reich’s iconic Drumming, brings the show to a surging climax of ensemble work.

      Target Audience: Brazilian Canadians and their music-aficionado, contemporary-dance-nerd friends.


      I Care What You Think

      At Performance Works from October 3 to 5

      Plastic orchid factory’s James Gnam, Action at a Distance’s Vanessa Goodman, dancer Jane Osborne, and lighting master James Proudfoot create an interdisciplinary world of convulsive choreography, paper figures, flashing lights, shadows, and projections, all set to a soundscape created in part by Loscil and Kevin Legere.

      The Draw: The chance to get up close and personal with this kind of artistic talent, in a piece about honesty and failure.

      Target Audience: Truth seekers and art lovers.


      Spooky Action blends quantum ideas with dance at the Firehall Arts Centre.

      Spooky Action

      At the Firehall Arts Centre from October 16 to 19

      Lesley Telford’s local company Inverso explores the quantum-physics property of entanglement in a full-length version of the piece set to Barbara Adler’s poetry.

      The Draw: Visual elements, spoken word, and the work of Albert Einstein make strange but scintillating bedfellows, all intricately woven together by this smart and detail-oriented Nederlands Dans Theater alumna.

      Target Audience: Students of physics, literature, and, of course, contemporary dance.



      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre on October 16 and 17

      Down Under’s Lucy Guerin presents two dancers—one clothed, one naked—playing out humans’ most intense struggles. They start in pleasant unison, but as their dance floor shrinks, they turn on each other.

      The Draw: This is dance as sparse and fearless as you are likely to see all year on-stage, and Guerin’s taken home numerous awards for this tautly intense little masterpiece.

      Target Audience: Those who know the simplest ideas can be the most complex of all.



      At the Vancouver Playhouse on October 25 and 26

      Australia’s Bangarra Dance Theatre kicks off the DanceHouse season in epic style with a piece that plays out 65,000 years of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through a contemporary lens.

      The Draw: The dizzying diversity of the dance, the dazzling theatrical touches, and a score that will haunt you deep into your dreams at night.

      Target Audience: Those looking for a spiritual awakening in the realest sense.


      Program 1

      At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from October 31 to November 2

      Artful, playful pleasures await on Ballet BC’s opening double bill, which pairs Edmonton-born sensation Aszure Barton’s Busk with a remount of Swede Johan Inger’s B.R.I.S.A.

      The Draw: While Inger’s wonderfully warped vision is full of surreal treats (hint: fans, hair dryers, and other gadgets create a literal “breeze”), it should be stunning to see Ballet BC take on Barton’s episodic and moodily poetic piece, set to the rhythms of Ljova and the Kontraband.

      Target Audience: Culture vultures who know ballet can be funny, twisted, and poignant—often all at the same time.


      Passages of Rhythms
      Yasuhiro Okada

      Passages of Rhythms

      At the Nest on Granville Island from November 6 to 9

      Co.ERASGA’s Filipino-Canadian visionary Alvin Erasga Tolentino pushes his cultural fusions ever further, this time teaming up with bharata natyam virtuoso Sujit Vaidya, flamenco maven Kasandra “La China”, and avant-garde Mon­treal voice artist Gabriel Dharmoo.

      The Draw: The spicy flavours going into Tolentino’s mechado.

      Target Audience: Travel addicts and citizens of the world.



      At the Cultch from November 20 to 24

      The Dancers of Damelahamid blend traditional movement and high-tech projections to tell age-old Indigenous stories. Video on multiple screens and the floor conjures coastal landscapes and designs, as well as more transcendent ideas.

      The Draw: This troupe is finding cutting-edge ways to interpret ancient Indigenous forms.

      Target Audience: Those curious to see how the digital and the ancient can seamlessly interweave.


      Out Innerspace Dance Theatre's Bygones
      Out Innerspace Dance Theatre


      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from December 11 to 14

      One of the city’s most exciting companies, Out Innerspace Dance Theatre builds entire haunting universes on-stage. This time out, think vintage-horror-movie shadow play, eerie puppets, and ghostly architecture.

      The Draw: The chance to see stunning troupe codirectors David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen (standouts in Crystal Pite’s Betroffenheit and Revisor) dance their own work, collaborating with performers Renée Sigouin, Elya Grant, and David Harvey.

      Target Audience: Motion-picture maniacs, fans of the otherworldly, and devoted dance followers.


      Flyng White-飞白

      At SFU Woodward’s from January 31 to February 2, 2020

      Wen Wei Dance joins forces with an intercultural orchestra made up of eight Turning Point Ensemble members and four from the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra. The piece takes its inspiration from Chinese calligraphy, and the simple elements of rice, paper, water, and silk.

      The Draw: Live music and six dancers moving with calligraphic flow—sometimes flourishing gorgeous, elongated black sleeves like ink.

      Target Audience: East and West.



      At the Cultch from February 12 to 15, 2020

      In this copro with New Works, Montreal’s Tentacle Tribe shows yet more evidence of how spectacularly street dance can meld with contemporary styles. Mashing everything from hip-hop to martial arts, the six-person crew explores the theme of breathing, sculpting and resculpting its formations with every inhalation and exhalation.

      The Draw: Off-the-hook technical chops and a vision that’s cool without even trying.

      Target Audience: B-boys and -girls and their contemporary-dance-snob friends.


      Fallen From Heaven

      At SFU Woodward’s from April 1 to 4, 2020

      Way off in the spring, a momentous occasion: the hypermagnetic bad girl of flamenco, Rocío Molina, is finally bringing her avant-garde, punk aesthetic here. Presented by DanceHouse, and SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs, in partnership with the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival.

      The Draw: Seemingly possessed when she performs, Molina conjures everything from bloodied angels to fetishistic matadors; think thongs, plastic skirts, and kneepads. The Guardian calls Fallen “a feminist scream”, “lyrical, raunchy and impeccably danced”.

      Target Audience: Anyone who caught Impulso, the documentary about Molina, at last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival—and never looked at flamenco the same way again.