Spring arts preview: Dance critics' picks: Scene madly mashes art forms

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      This spring, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any dance performance that isn’t interdisciplinary. We’re talking live musicians on-stage, elaborate installationlike sets, and generous amounts of spoken word. Even Ballet B.C.’s most ambitious offering this season, an ode to The Rite of Spring, brings in light-and-glass designer Omer Arbel and Black Mountain keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt. So read on, head out, and leave your old-school ideas of genres and categories at home.


      (March 12 to 14 at the Roundhouse Community Centre )

      Par B.L.eux’s Benoît Lachambre performs an elaborately staged, multimedia spectacle about the shedding of old skin, set to eerie electroacoustic live music by Hahn Rowe. It’s part of the Vancouver International Dance Festival.

      The Draw: The Montreal risk-taker turns the stage into a playground of rope and metal scaffolding from which he hangs by a leather harness, writhing and convulsing.
      Target Audience: Herpetologists, dominants/submissives, and those who like to lurk on the avant-garde edge.

      Mushi no Hoshi—Space Insect

      (March 20 and 21 at the Vancouver Playhouse)

      Welcome to their nightmare: Japan’s Dairakudakan makes its debut at the Vancouver International Dance Festival, and after seeing the ghoulish imagery here, you may not sleep for days. This is butoh with spectacle: the set is a giant cascade of hanging metal rods that sometimes act as chimes, sometimes as cagelike bars. But it’s the 22 dancers, caked alternately in white powder and metallic paint, who produce the chills here, contorting, shuffling, and generally creating the most haunting zombie-insect invasion you’ve ever seen.

      The Draw: This is a big deal, because Dairakudakan is arguably the most important butoh company in Japan, under legendary director Akaji Maro (who not only practically invented underground theatre in his home country but also appeared in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2).
      Target Audience: Butoh buffs, fans of the surreal, and those who get buggy around bugs.

      Monsieur Auburtin

      (March 26 to 28 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)

      In this Chutzpah!PLUS program, Les Productions Figlio’s Serge Bennathan plumbs his own life, naming the work after the first dance teacher he had, at age seven. A memoir in movement, music, and words, it follows him through the standout moments in his long career, including encounters with Roland Petit and Rudolf Nureyev.

      The Draw: The chance to see the French-born artist, who danced for companies like the Ballet National de Marseille before moving into choreography, take the stage again, this time joined by dancers Erin Drumheller and Kim Stevenson and musician-composer Bertrand Chénier.
      Target Audience: Anyone with even the vaguest notion of the commitment required for a career in dance.

      Käfig Brasil

      (April 10 and 11 at the Vancouver Playhouse)

      Prepare for the rooftop to blow off the Playhouse when these 11 male dancers from Rio de Janeiro’s infamous favelas take the stage as part of the DanceHouse series. Compagnie Käfig combines street and contemporary dance, with spicy touches from its leader, French-Algerian Mourad Merzouki, whose own background is in hip-hop, martial arts, and circus arts. In this piece, four French choreographers collaborate with the performers on pieces set to everything from electrobeats to baroque music.

      The Draw: Brazilian heat with European street.
      Target Audience: World travellers and arts fans who know an exciting cultural fusion when they see one.


      (May 7 to 9 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      Ballet B.C.’s season closer is an interdisciplinary, two-part ode to 1913’s seminal The Rite of Spring. While Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano sets his new reimagining to the original Igor Stravinsky score, Ballet B.C.’s own Emily Molnar choreographs a homage to the work set to new music.

      The Draw: Molnar’s half of the evening features an installation by Bocci design genius Omer Arbel and a space-rock score by Black Mountain star and keyboard king Jeremy Schmidt.
      Target Audience: Interior-design fans, indie-rock hipsters, and balletomanes who love to see old works given bold new life.

      The Sensationalists

      (May 12 to 16 at the Cultch)

      The 605 Collective and Theatre Replacement join forces on a new dance piece that transforms the Cultch into an immersive, interactive performance space. All we know so far is that the show explores sensory experience.

      The Draw: Seeing two of the city’s most energized, innovative, and fun companies mash minds.
      Target Audience:
      People who don’t want just to sit and watch a performance, but to step into it and live and breathe it.

      The Value of Things

      (June 17 to 20 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre) 

      Plastic orchid factory presents Mon­treal artist Jacques Poulin-Denis and his multidisciplinary company, Grand Poney, in a performance that mixes dance, theatre, and live music as it explores today’s values and beliefs. Poulin-Denis created it with POF’s James Gnam. Expect low-tech magic, with cardboard boxes, props, and acoustic music (by Francis d’Octobre).

      The Draw: Montreal’s Voir voted it the best dance show in 2014.
      Target Audience: Anyone who’s stood in their closet and wondered what to wear, or ever had to box up all their belongings to move.