Fall arts preview 2015 dance critics’ picks: Dance dares to mix it up

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      The return of some big names to the stage (Joe Laughlin, Holy Body Tattoo) and some totally unexpected collaborations (a men’s choir with the ballet) make for a tasty fall dance menu. And you can’t go wrong when there are two separate Crystal Pite works and a Hofesh Shechter show on the roster.



      (October 1 to 3 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)

      Local dance favourite Joe Laughlin returns to the stage for the first time in 10 years in a piece about family dynamics and the moments, from childhood to adulthood, that shape our lives. The JOE INK innovator is joined by celebrated dance veteran Gioconda Barbuto, as well as Kevin Tookey and Heather Dotto. Expect the former gymnast’s highly athletic style, as well as humour amid the moving moments.

      The Draw: Seeing the magnetic Laughlin, who can make a duet between a man and a teacup interesting, riffing off others on-stage.

      Target Audience: JOE INK followers and those whose families put the “funk” back into dysfunction.


      Unwrapping Culture

      (October 15 to 17 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)

      Traditional Southeast Asian dance has a mystery and beauty all its own. Take that intricate movement language and apply it to contemporary ideas about sex, materialism, freedom, globalism, and religion, and you’ve got a pretty compelling mixture. Here, Co.ERASGA’s Philippines-born Alvin Erasga Tolentino joins forces with iconic Thai Khon dancer Pichet Klunchun to explore what and who creates culture.

      The Draw: The rare chance to see the revered classical Thai dance form made relevant to the here and now.

      Target Audience: Fans of Southeast Asian culture and armchair travellers.


      Solitudes Solo

      (October 28 to 31 at the Firehall Arts Centre)

      Mon­treal’s Daniel Léveillé finely crafts five solos for five dancers, exploring the lone body to the swirling strings of Johann Sebastian Bach.

      The Draw: The chance to see a dance master at the height of his powers sculpt the human form.

      Target Audience: Discerning dance buffs who prefer honed bodies to bells and whistles.


      The Dog Days Are Over

      (October 29 to 31 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)

      How can you not be curious about this one? Belgian rebel Jan Martens asks his dancers to surrender their bodies to a single act: jumping. For 70 exhausting minutes, often in gruellingly precise geometric patterns. Is it art? Entertainment? Abuse? You can debate it after the show, as many others have.

      The Draw: Dance that’s breathless—literally.

      Target Audience: Viewers who want to be provoked; couch potatoes who like to get their extreme exercise vicariously.


      Ballet B.C. Program 1

      (November 5 to 7 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      Our resident company opens with a dazzler, most notably with a world premiere by Belgian-born Stijn Celis that features our own all-male choir, Chor Leoni, singing on-stage. Elsewhere, local audiences can finally see Solo Echo, a piece local superstar Crystal Pite made for the cutting-edge Nederlands Dans Theater, and the reprisal of Cayetano Soto’s haunting Twenty Eight Thousand Waves (which we called “a meticulously sculpted vision of wrapping and unwrapping forms” last year).

      The Draw: Resounding voices, rebounding bodies.

      Target Audience: Contemporary-ballet nuts and their choral-nut friends.



      (November 10 to 14 at the Cultch Historic Theatre)

      We like the sounds of the mix in this cross-cultural masala: always-entertaining Indo-Armenian dancer and choreographer Roger Sinha of Sinha Danse is hooking up with Mon­treal’s Ensemble Constantinople, led by Iranian-born Kiya Tabassian. Add four dancers, three musicians, a sound designer, and a video artist, and you have a pretty rich combination.

      The Draw: World music and world dance meet multimedia.

      Target Audience: The Lonely Planet set.



      (November 13 and 14 at the Vancouver Playhouse)

      DanceHouse is bringing back Israeli-born, British-based sensation Hofesh Shechter—and anyone who saw his explosive show in 2009 will be scrambling for tickets. Batsheva-trained Schechter’s choreography strikes somewhere between the animal and the urban; it’s sensual and raw, but intricately staged. In this trio of works, he explores different sides of his exciting style.

      The Draw: The Guardian calls this “superb stuff: juicy, nervy ensembles and a wittily unsettling commentary”.

      Target Audience: Those who like to keep in touch with what’s creating buzz on the international scene.


      Book of Love

      (November 25 to December 5 at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre)

      To celebrate 30 years, Kokoro Dance founding directors Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi make a tantalizing collaboration with dancers Molly McDermott and Billy Marchenski, composer Jeffrey Ryan, the Standing Wave music ensemble, Brit set and costume designer Jonathan Baldock, and lighting designer Gerald King.

      The Draw: The chance to see some of the city’s finest artists sharing one stage.

      Target Audience: Culture vultures who love new music as much as new dance.



      (January 28, 2016, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      As part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, cult-hit Vancouver dance troupe Holy Body Tattoo is rejoining after a 10-year hiatus. It’s bringing back monumental, a cool piece that finds its dancers busting the company’s physically pummelling moves atop museumlike white plinths.

      The Draw: For the first time, post-postpunk art instrumentalists Godspeed You! Black Emperor provide live accompaniment.

      Target Audience: Indie-music fans and those who have been missing the combustible magic of duo Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon.



      (February 25 to 27, 2016, at the Vancouver Playhouse)

      Expect this deeply moving, surreal DanceHouse presentation about trauma, grief, and addiction to sell out. Why? First, it’s created by two Vancouver arts powerhouses—Electric Company Theatre’s Jonathon Young and Kidd Pivot’s Crystal Pite. Second, it debuted this summer to raves at Toronto’s PANAMANIA Arts and Culture Program, where reviewers reported sobbing uncontrollably before calling their friends to tell them to see it. Think a fever dream of creepy clowns, showgirls, and chorus lines.

      The Draw: This is dark subject matter, drawn from a real-life tragedy, but there are no two better artists to help us all understand what it’s like to be in a black hole, and then pull ourselves out.

      Target Audience: Anyone who’s ever clawed their way through loss.

      Follow Janet Smith on Twitter @janetsmitharts.