Spring arts preview 2017 dance critics' picks: Scene gathers the globe

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      We can’t tell you exactly why, but this spring brings an unprecedented explosion of dance—culture-fusing creations, edgy contemporary commissions, playfully witty works, and almost everything in between. Look for African influences, Israeli superstars, Japanese spectacles, Canadian icons, and even a show—yes!—on an ice rink. Then thank your lucky stars that you live in a place as inclusive and happening as Van City.


      The Mars Hotel/Kwan Yin

      (At the Firehall Arts Centre from February 22 to 25)

      Ziyian Kwan, founder of dumb instrument Dance, explores love and compassion with live music in a full evening of work. The Mars Hotel, featuring Kwan with Noam Gagnon, is a series of playful vignettes inspired by P.W. Bridgman’s flash fiction of the same name; in it, a huge, white ball emblazoned with the word love takes centre stage. The intergenerational Kwan Yin features Kwan and her 77-year-old father, Lihuen Kwan, in a look at the parent-child bond.

      The Draw: Kwan’s quirky style, as well as the live soundscapes of trio Handmade Blade, including crack cellist Peggy Lee.

      Target Audience: Experimental-jazz fans, bookworms, and the lovesick.


      Chutzpah Festival

      (At the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre to March 13)

      The annual arts fest is known for strong dance programming, continuing the tradition this year with the return of Italy’s polished Spellbound Contemporary Ballet and the local debut of America’s Kyle Abraham.

      The Draw: Spellbound is always mesmerizing, but for sheer shock value we’re going for young Israeli mavericks Yossi Berg and Oded Graf and their 4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer—a fantastical exploration of manhood. Did we mention the Mexican wrestling masks?

      Target Audience: Open-minded dance adventurers.


      Alonzo King's Sand.
      Chris Hardy

      Vancouver International Dance Festival

      (At the Playhouse Theatre, the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, and the Woodward’s Production Studio from March 1 to 25)

      Big international names, provocative indie creations, and local trailblazers share the wildly inclusive bill at Kokoro Dance’s 17th eclectic event. America’s acclaimed Alonzo King Lines Ballet returns with Sand and Shostakovich. Among the other artists: Toronto veterans Kaeja d’Dance; Montreal’s provocative Compagnie Virginie Brunelle; Denmark’s bold Kitt Johnson; Japan’s dreamlike Yayoi Theatre Movement; and Vancouver’s supercharged Kinesis Dance somatheatro.

      The Draw: Alonzo King’s balletic, masterfully wrought visions are gorgeous, but you won’t find a more surreally chilling spectacle than Dairakudakan’s 21-dancer Paradise, with its ghostly white-caked figures, fright wigs, roller-skating gangs, and red-petal storms.

      Target Audience: Those who like to sample the world’s dance offerings without ever leaving town.


      Program 2

      (At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from March 16 to 18)

      Wear your red and white as Ballet BC fetes Canada’s 150th anniversary with four of this city’s singular voices. Wen Wei Wang, Company 605, Lesley Telford, and Crystal Pite share the program, the first three with sure-to-dazzle new works.

      The Draw: We can’t quell the curiosity for seeing the street-influenced, physically pummelling 605 set a piece on the virtuosic contemporary-ballet dancers.

      Target Audience: Nationalists and locavores.


      What the Day Owes to the Night (Ce Que le Jour Doit à la Nuit)

      (At the Vancouver Playhouse on April 7 and 8)

      DanceHouse brings in 12 kick-ass male street and hip-hop dancers from Algeria and Burkina Faso with the form-melding work of French choreographer Hervé Koubi. Look for a mix of capoeira, acrobatics, martial arts, and B-boy moves with a contemporary sheen.

      The Draw: The flowing dance fusion is set off by vivid motifs from Sufism and Islamic architecture and filigree.

      Target Audience: Optimists who know art is the ultimate culture bridger.


      Zab Maboungou, of Montreal’s Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata, brings Mozongi to the Scotiabank Dance Centre in April.


      (At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from April 6 to 8)

      Zab Maboungou, of Montreal’s Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata, brings her powerful contemporary African dance work to the West Coast.

      The Draw: Pulsing rhythms create an energy that just might blow the venue’s roof off.

      Target Audience: Percussion addicts.


      Vertical Influences hits the Britannia rink.
      Jim Lee

      Vertical Influences

      (At the Britannia Ice Rink from April 18 to 30)

      Throw out any preconceptions you have of sparkle-costumed figure skaters: Quebec’s Le Patin Libre sassily reinvents the form.

      The Draw: The street-smart edge the dancers give the virtuosic spins and jumps.

      Target Audience: East Side families, rink rats, and former figure skaters.


      How to Be

      (At the Cultch from April 12 to 15)

      Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg presents a funny dance-theatre work that toys with how others think we should be, and how we don’t stand a chance.

      The Draw: Watching physical comedian Cheyenne Friedenberg meld minds with ace collaborators Marcus Youssef, Josh Martin, Justine A. Chambers, Susan Elliott, Kate Franklin, Bevin Poole, and Kimberly Stevenson.

      Target Audience: Guests who like self-effacing laughs with their dance.


      Noche Flamenca’s Antigona

      (At the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 12)

      Flamenco meets ancient Greek tragedy in this multimedia version of Sophocles’ story of a defiant heroine.

      The Draw: The New York Times has described dancer Soledad Barrio’s solos as “tinged with aching sadness or filled with rage, revealed in frenetic footwork that seemingly sends sparks into the floor”.

      Target Audience: Flamenco fans and students of ancient Greece.


      Lesley Telford’s Inverso brings works to the Scotiabank Dance Centre in late April.
      David Cooper

      Three Sets/Relating at a Distance

      (At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from April 20 to 22)

      Lesley Telford’s Inverso, a dance troupe she launched in Madrid that’s now based in Vancouver, aims to create dance through the lens of other art forms, from paintings to literature. Here, she collaborates with poets like Barbara Adler.

      The Draw: Telford, an alumna of the towering Nederlands Dans Theater and Madrid’s Compañía Nacional de Danza, is a riveting new talent, building movement that’s strange, intelligent, and surprising at every turn.

      Target Audience: Poetry buffs and talent scouts.


      Program 3

      (At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from May 11 to 13)

      Ballet BC’s season closer brings a taste of Israel’s red-hot dance talent to the table. Tel Aviv–born French sensation Emanuel Gat creates a new work, while Batsheva Dance legend Ohad Naharin stages his playful Minus 16. Between the two, Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar creates a new work to the music of all-the-rage Canadian composer Nicole Lizée.

      The Draw: Two words: Ohad Naharin. Watch the fascinating documentary about his movement language, Mr. Gaga, when it hits local big screens in March, then grab the chance to see the icon’s genius in action on-stage.

      Target Audience: Discerning dancegoers and newbies ready to have their minds blown.


      Wen Wei Dance

      (At the Scotiabank Dance Centre from May 25 to 27)

      Choreographer Wen Wei Wang, who draws deeply from his own Chinese background and brings it stunningly into the present, unveils Dialogue—a piece born from his own experience as a non-English-speaking immigrant here.

      The Draw: Seeing the return of a Vancouver visionary who has mesmerized us with pieces like Made in China and Cockpit.

      Target Audience: Viewers who like their cultural melting pot with a contemporary edge.