Eleven Accords marks an unexpected full circle of Christopher House’s time with Toronto Dance Theatre. When selecting the music for his upcoming work, he rediscovered American composer Steve Reich’s seminal composition Music for 18 Musicians, the same score he used in 1980’s Toss Quintet, his first group work for the company.
Though the song remains the same, House’s approach is radically different.
“The first time I worked with this music, it was a much more traditional process,” he says. “I created steps, taught them to the dancers, and worked with them to make something very precise. This time, we’re building a series of tasks, but it’s more akin to a jazz improv. Every performance will be different.”
Heavily influenced by his work with choreographer Deborah Hay, House’s interest in hierarchical approaches to choreography has faded. Instead, he favours collaborative structures that give his dancers greater freedom.
“The audience isn’t watching something people practised and made perfect,” he says. “Everything is unfolding moment by moment. It’s not the kind of show the dancers can memorize and then be thinking about what they’ll have for dinner later while performing. It’s an all-in commitment.”
This year will be House’s 34th with Toronto Dance Theatre and his 20th at the helm, an unusually long tenure for any artist in his field. As he coasts toward retirement (he’ll be a spry 60 next year), does he have any plans to slow down?
“I’m not really sure what retirement age means,” he laughs. “I suspect I’ll take a break from doing major works after this one and focus more on my role as curator and producer.”
He pauses and smiles. “Or maybe I’m just saying that because I’m overwhelmed with this project right now.”