Fall arts preview dance critics’ picks: Dance goes sleekly futuristic

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Fasten your seat belts, folks: the coming dance season promises to take you to the futuristic edge. Whether it’s Wayne McGregor’s flashing LED lights, L-E-V’s strutting automatons, or Jacopo Godani’s electro-pumped vision, the lineup looks to be a pulsing, tech-amped trip.

      Need respite? There are always the two glistening Nutcrackers (Goh Ballet’s, featuring Paloma Herrera from American Ballet Theatre, is December 18 to 22 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, while the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s nostalgically Canadian version runs December 12 to 14 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre) and a transcendent ode to George Balanchine by Miami City Ballet.

      Below are some, but not all, of the hottest dance tickets of the bunch.

      Ballet Preljocaj

      (September 25 and 26 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)

      The Dance Centre presents Angelin Preljocaj’s famed company with Empty Moves (Parts I, II, and III), set to John Cage’s provocative 1977 recording Empty Words, in which he speaks increasingly unintelligible text while his audience starts jeering at him in frustration. Think four honed dancers performing flowing, detailed movement set against the equally abstract words.

      The Draw: Watch closely and you will find this as “fascinating” as the New York Times has said it is.

      Target Audience: Fans of ’70s shit disturbers like Cage and those who know that the opportunity to see the precision-obsessed Preljocaj here doesn’t happen every day.


      (September 26 and 27 at the Vancouver Playhouse)

      Audiences who saw Brit superstar Wayne McGregor’s Entity when DanceHouse brought it here in 2012 know his work can be enjoyed on two levels. First, there’s the brainy side—in the case of FAR, medical historian Roy Porter’s ideas about the Age of Enlightenment, along with the collaboration of cognitive scientists, give the work an intellectual richness. On the other side, there’s the sleek contemporary aesthetic of it: the flashing computerized board of 3,200 LED lights by rAndom International, Reykjavík-based composer Ben Frost’s icily haunting electronic score, and, of course, McGregor’s dancers, moving elastically in ways that defy bones and muscle like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

      The Draw: Random Dance is one of the hottest companies on the planet, and this is a chance to hook into the Euro scene.

      Target Audience: Design nuts, science nerds, dance hounds.


      (October 21 to 25 at the Firehall Arts Centre)

      Call it storytelling dance: One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre’s Denise Clarke gives a tragicomic take on a very tough year in her life.

      The Draw: The veteran, one-of-a-kind Calgary artist can spin a yarn, but she got her start in dance, and the choreography here, which ranges from waltzes to hip-hop, is “glorious to behold”, according to her hometown Herald.

      Target Audience: Viewers who don’t require a fourth wall.

      No. 29

      (November 6 to 8 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      Ballet B.C.’s season opener looks like a winner, boasting a trio of hot contemporary names. Vancouver-born Lesley Telford, who has created commissions for Nederlands Dans Theater and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, stages An Instant, her ode to life’s fragility set to Michael Gordon’s rhythmic, haunting strings; edgy new Spanish sensation Fernando Magadan tries his hand at pointe work in a world premiere; and Jacopo Godani sees the remounting of his driving, electro-fuelled A.U.R.A. (Anarchist Unit Related to Art).

      The Draw: Telford proved herself to be a striking new voice with her Brittle Failure at last year’s Chutzpah Festival, which unfolded fraught couplings amid 1,000 tiny paper houses.

      Target Audience: Anyone who wants to be where it’s all happening that night.


      (November 14 and 15 at the Vancouver Playhouse)

      Aliens, zombies, ravers, fashion models, robots, automatons: these are just some of the terms people have used to describe the dancers of Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s work. The pair, disciples of Israel’s powerhouse Batsheva Dance, where Eyal was in-house choreographer, have a new company called L-E-V (that’s “heart” in Hebrew), and their techno-throbbing House brings on an army of nude-bodysuited humanoids.

      The Draw: The Batsheva pedigree and the cool, space-age look.

      Target Audience: Sci-fi fans, club kids, and Batsheva buffs.

      Things Near and Far

      (December 3 to 6 at the Firehall Arts Centre)

      Two choreographers from opposite ends of both the country and the dance world, veteran Ottawa icon Tedd Robinson and young contemporary Vancouver force Josh Martin (of the street-influenced 605 Collective) create work for magnetic dancers Anne Cooper, Ziyian Kwan, and Ron Stewart. Charles Quevillon and Stefan Smulovitz compose, while James Proudfoot provides lighting.

      The Draw: Watching three generations of artists mash ideas.

      Target Audience: Those who know sometimes the best mixtures come without a recipe.

      Made in China 

      (February 18 to 21, 2015, at the Firehall Arts Centre)

      Wen Wei Dance’s much-anticipated premiere is an ambitious collaboration between celebrated local choreographer Wen Wei Wang, Beijing Modern Dance Company artistic director Gao Yanjinzi, classical Chinese musician and Silk Road Music member Qiu Xia He, and video and sound artist Sammy Chien. Each expresses their memories of growing up in China, and the paths they took to go abroad.

      The Draw: High-calibre artists melding the traditional and the contemporary in biographies that deserve to be told.

      Target Audience: Travellers, expats, and almost everyone who’s left home.


      (February 19 to 21, 2015, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      Miami City Ballet makes its Vancouver debut with some of the masterworks of George Balanchine. Amid the milestones that you’ll get the chance to see live and in the flesh are his seminal Serenade, set to Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, and Symphony in Three Movements, set to the angular 20th-century sounds of Igor Stravinsky.

      The Draw: This is as authentic as it gets: the troupe’s artistic director, Lourdes Lopez, was a principal dancer under Balanchine and knows his work intimately.

      Target Audience: Dance historians and balletomanes.

      Follow Janet Smith on Twitter at @janetsmitharts.