Spring Arts Preview 2023: Dance critics' picks

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      In our conversation with choreographer Shay Kuebler for this issue, we talked about how rhythm exists in everything. While it didn’t make it into the final cut of the story, something he said stayed with us: that body language is one of the first things we learn as babies. We instinctively understand it. And Kuebler is right. As we move through life, dance is simply a translator of the human experience. From the ongoing Vancouver International Dance Festival (which includes pieces like Wabi-Sabi and Ichigo-Ichieh) to Piña, just look at the many expressions of it on this page. 

      Kokoro Dance: Wabi-Sabi

      At the Vancouver Playhouse from March 2-4

      Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi are two of the most iconic and important figures in Vancouver’s dance community. Along with establishing the Vancouver International Dance Festival in 2000, the pair continue to create thought-provoking work with their butoh-inspired company, Kokoro Dance. In Wabi-Sabi, Bourget and Hirabayashi perform a duet (to a score by their son, composer Joseph Hirabayashi) that considers transience and imperfection. The Draw: The choreography is improvised, so no performance will be the same. 

      Hiromoto Ida: Ichigo-Ichieh: Birthday Present for Myself

      At Shadbolt Centre’s Studio Theatre from March 17-18

      Taking inspiration from Japanese Noh theatre and Western contemporary dance, Hiromoto Ida tells the moving story of an old man who reflects on his life on what will be his last birthday. The work also features text from Japanese playwright Shogo Ota, props including a mask created by Japanese mask artist Mitsue Nakamura, and a live performance of Pavel Karmanov’s original score. The Draw: A poignant look at love, transformation, and regeneration.

      Vancouver International Burlesque Festival

      At various locations from March 29-April 1

      Launched in 2006, Canada’s longest-running burlesque festival is back with showcases, talks, workshops, and much more. Some headliners you won’t want to miss include Moscato Sky, a Latinx, trans-femme, and non-binary classically trained dancer and choreographer, and Zyra Lee Vanity, an award-winning entertainer also known as “Canada’s Urban Desire.” The Draw: An inclusive lineup of new faces, big stars, and industry legends.  

      Dancers of Damelahamid: Spirit and Tradition

      At Scotiabank Dance Centre on March 30

      Spirit and Tradition was originally commissioned in 2010 by North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre and is one of the renowned Indigenous dance company’s most popular productions. The work combines masked dances, drumming, and projected visuals to share cultural teachings about reciprocity, ecological sustainability, and community. The Draw: Dancers of Damelahamid was founded in the 1960s with a mission to protect and revitalize Indigenous artistic practices when the Potlatch Ban was lifted in 1951. 

      Hillel Kogan: We Love Arabs

      At Scotiabank Dance Centre April 13-15

      How can we co-exist in conflict? Hillel Kogan and Adi Boutrou deconstruct the question with biting humour as a Jewish choreographer who collaborates with an Arab dancer. The Draw: A sharp social commentary on politics, stereotypes, bias, and peace.

      FakeKnot: Piña

      At SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts from May 4-6

      Named for the delicate Philippine fibre made from pineapple leaves, Piña is underscored by cultural resilience. The work, inspired by FakeKnot artistic director Ralph Escamillan’s identity as a first-generation Canadian-born Filipinx, draws parallels between the delicate strength of the textile and that of the diaspora. The Draw: Ralph Escamillan’s always vibrant choreography—which references both street and contemporary dance—and an original score by Kimmortal.

      Kasandra Flamenco: Rojo y Sombra

      At Shadbolt Centre’s Studio Theatre from May 26-27

      The Kasandra Flamenco offers a theatrical interpretation of the folkloric art form originating from Southern Spain. In the piece, dancing with a piece of red silk—which moves from being soft and billowing to tense and violent—the ensemble explores the ebbs and flows of energy with their bodies alongside the changing textures of the fabric. The Draw: A fresh take on flamenco, all the way down to the music, which pairs classical guitar with electronic sounds.