Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Thursday, Oct. 3, 11:00am
School Matinee Performance
I’m still arriving. It’s 11am. My flight arrived from Vancouver at 6am today (Thursday Oct. 3)
and I’m sitting in Ryerson Theatre surrounded by the cacophony of busloads of high school
students from Toronto and the surrounding area. They seem excited. The part of me that’s
sitting in the theatre is excited too. But there’s part of me that is still arriving from the airport,
in a kind of motion blur en route – still on TTC and still running down Gerrard St. to get to the
theatre in time – still catching up to the version of me already in my seat. I’m in the past and
the present simultaneously, and some of me is arcing into the future in anticipation for this
performance and three days of FFDN to come.
The buzz increases when FFDN General Manager Christina Giannelia and National Ballet of
Canada First Soloist Tanya Howard take the stage to offer a welcome. Christina notes that this
program features artists from 3 continents. Right. And I feel like I’m experiencing motion blur?! Past, present, future. There and here. As this experience emerges for me, I realize that both the essays we commissioned for the Program Magazine this year also address this theme. Then, that magical moment arrives: the lights dim and together we enter the shared experience of live performance. I love this transition – the dark potential of it – not knowing what will happen and yet hovering on the threshold about to fall in. It’s that moment when “a hush falls over the crowd”, right? But no! Rousing cheers erupt all over the theatre. The excitement brims over into whooping and calling. Then I remember: this is the unique Fall for Dance North Festival energy. On opening night of the very first festival – five years ago – the crowd at the then Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (now MERIDIAN HALL) also erupted in cheers. Yes, it’s that kind of festival.
And even with all the noise, or perhaps because of it, I fully arrive in this here and now, along
with the rest of the audience. The performers are already in. The opening image of Louise Potiki Bryant’s In Transit for The New Zealand Dance Company compels attention from everyone. You’ll see why when you attend Program 3 at Ryerson Theatre this week (running on 3 occasions). And suddenly I also see my experience of motion blur appearing right before my eyes in the video projections. The work mesmerizes and when it ends – with an equally arresting closing image – again the theatre rings with cheering and whooping, but now it’s a more condensed and lifted energy. The dance itself, its qualities of ritual and reverence, has worked on us, transforming the vibe of the theatre itself. Do these students realize this? It’s palpable.
And the program continues to focus and shift the energy of the space. Skånes Dansteater’s duet Dare to Wreck begins with a causal but intense engagement between the dancers. Over the piece, their movement expresses the gamut from tender touches to persistent nudges, shoves, lifts, drops, rolls and suspensions, which is where they leave us at the end – in suspension, of disbelief perhaps. Is this really the end? Again, with a chorus of cheers, the audience of students and their teachers offer appreciation.
Cody Berry / Northfoot Movement – with live musicians and another set of compelling video
images – deals with themes of disintegration and reintegration exploring Indigenous Two-
Spirited lived identity. This theme appears in the shifting formations and combinations of the
dancers, in the video imagery of beings dissolving into digital fragments, and in the movement
vocabulary. Specifically, the final unison group section weaves specific pow wow forms throughout the more abstract choreography. I had the opportunity to ask Cody himself about this and he verified for me that yes, the section does draw in fragments of movement from both the male and female pow wow forms (Jingle, Shawl, Traditional, Fancy and Grass dances). Of course, cheers follow once again.
Lady C, her crew of dancers and collaborating musicians from the Toronto band re.verse closed out the program with their high-energy dance-music Conversation drawing on popping, locking and free style forms. Expressed off the top through individual dialogues between dancer- musician pairs, the exchange then takes off in more complex permutations and combinations, both high-speed and super slo-mo. The physical-musical rhythmic play generates a cheeky antagonism at times, and some solid unison grooves. A resounding roar from the crowd wraps things up.
In the aftermath, Christina and Tanya once again take the stage to host a post-show chat and while the artists are getting ready to come out, Christina asks the students: “Stand up if you take dance at least once a week.” Pretty much the entire audience stands. “Stay up if you take dance more than twice a week,” calls Christina. They all stay up. “Stay up if you take dance more than four times a week.” Incredibly nobody sits! To get them to sit, she jumps to 10 times a week, and finally they all take their seats as the post-show chat commences.