Spring Arts Preview 2020 dance critics' picks: Artists like Rocío Molina and Ohad Naharin help scene take a walk on the wild side

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      This spring, the dance scene gets wonderfully warped and weird. Nothing could qualify as “traditional” or “normal” on the list below—not even programs where you would expect it.

      So thank the dance gods that you don’t live in a boring city. And bring on the collapsing dollhouses, the bondage-outfitted bailaoras, and the electronically wired tap dancers. Here are the hottest tickets this spring.



      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from March 12 to 14

      Embrace the chaos as a man’s world falls down around him in this Dance Centre and Vancouver New Music presentation. Mousetraps, plastic glassware, and a jacket pierced with arrows make for a wild trip into the off-kilter world of Canadian contemporary-dance master Bill Coleman.

      The Draw: Everything from bowls of water to mechanical objects and ECG electrodes conjures the score.

      Target Audience: Experimentalists, anarchists, and the prop-curious.


      RUBBERBAND brings an explosive hybrid here.

      Ever So Slightly

      At the Vancouver Playhouse on March 20 and 21

      Hip-hop, martial arts, and contemporary dance meld in RUBBERBAND’s sometimes dark exploration of stress, oppression, and aggression, all set to a haunting electronic score. In this DanceHouse presentation, performers dressed in coveralls ignite choreographer Victor Quijada’s explosive moves.

      The Draw: Composer–DJ Jasper Gahunia and violinist William Lamoureux’s live music gives the movement extra fire.

      Target Audience: Urbanites under pressure, and the hip-hop nation.


      Fallen From Heaven

      At SFU Woodward’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts from April 1 to 4

      Feral, intense, fragile, ferocious—Spanish flamenco rebel Rocío Molina has been called all of these things as she’s performed around the world. If you saw Impulso, the unforgettable documentary about her at VIFF 2018 (it’s screening again on March 11), you know this show is unmissable. Expect theatrics, as four male musicians provide live accompaniment to this DanceHouse–SFU Woodward’s copresentation in partnership with the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival.

      The Draw: Molina’s ability to transform herself from unearthly creature in a surreal white bata de cola to macho woman sporting an S&M harness to gold-bolero-wearing matador in kneepads.

      Target Audience: Iberophiles who like their flamenco five-alarm dangerous.


      We Love Arabs

      At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from April 23 to 25

      In this dance-theatre work that dramatizes the rehearsal process for a new work, Israeli choreographer-dancer Hillel Kogan conscripts an Arab performer, Adi Boutrous. Cue cultural missteps, power struggles, and biting political satire, as the effort to make a dancework about peace turns into cleverly comedic conflict. The Dance Centre presents it with Théâtre la Seizième.

      The Draw: Complex Middle East politics on an intimate scale.

      Target Audience: Peace activists who can check their idealism at the door.


      Program 3

      At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from May 7 to 9

      Ballet BC becomes the first company on the continent to perform Batsheva Dance Company legend Ohad Naharin’s hypnotic Hora. Featuring sensuously undulating bodies, the work is defined by an emerald-green set and synthesizer adaptations of the classics. It finds a perfect companion in Batsheva alumna Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s strange and alien Bill, with its army of dancers in nude body suits.

      The Draw: Gorgeous Gaga (Naharin’s revolutionary movement language).

      Target Audience: Batsheva fans, plus balletomanes who like to take a walk on the wild side.


      Fujiwara Dance Inventions' Eunoia.


      At the Firehall Arts Centre from May 13 to 16

      Veteran Toronto choreographer Denise Fujiwara boldly adapts Christian Bök’s book-length poem of the same name—playing a similar game of language. Just as Bök limits himself to words that use a single vowel for each of the book’s five chapters, Fujiwara’s dancers use only parts of the body that contain a designated vowel (the jaw or calf for the letter A, say).

      The Draw: A multimedia performance that rethinks movement as much as it works your brain.

      Target Audience: Wordsmiths, bookworms, and those who like poetry in motion.


      ETM: Double Down

      At the Vancouver Playhouse on May 15 and 16

      The last time New York City’s Dorrance Dance came to the DanceHouse program, audiences were blown away by the way the troupe both pays tribute to tap’s roots and also turns the form on its head. Now they’re back with new Electronic Tap Music platforms that push even further into the future, using trigger boards that produce all kinds of cool live sound from the lightning footwork.

      The Draw: Some of the world’s most charismatic hoofers.

      Target Audience: Vancouver’s vast contingent of tap lovers, and discerning contemporary-dance fans who don’t think they’re tap lovers.


      What Do You Want to Be If You Grow Up

      At Left of Main from June 3 to 6

      Plastic orchid factory presents a multimedia solo by James Gnam, whose ambitious subject is growing up during the Cold War and that historical chapter’s effect on the current climate crisis.

      The Draw: Video touches like atomic-age public-safety propaganda, not to mention iconic ’80s tunes.

      Target Audience: Children of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.



      At the Moberly Arts Centre from June 25 to 28

      In this Dumb Instrument Dance show, Ziyian Kwan, Kelly McInnes, Rianne Svelnis, and taiko drummer Eileen Kage join forces to explore the theme of witches.

      The Draw: Dance in a public-park field house.

      Target Audience: Those who want to fall under their spell.