This weekend will see Harbourfront Centre chock full of movers and shakers. Nearly 350 artists descend on the venue for Dance Weekend, showcasing almost every form of movement imaginable. Ballet and modern play side by side with flamenco and hip hop. Traditional Indian, Korean and Egyptian dance mingle with aerialists and b-boys. Culturally diverse as the city that hosts it, the event features performers from five continents.
“The idea is to get people to see as many different forms of dance as they can,” says programmer Rosslyn Jacob Edwards. “Many of the works are short excerpts of longer pieces or works in progress. It’s a chance for audiences to try things out with no risk. When they find things they like, they can follow that company’s work in the future.”
Festival regulars The Chimera Project show an excerpt of Malgorzata Nowacka’s The Calm Before… Featuring 11 dancers, including hotties Tyler Gledhill and Brendan Wyatt, it’s a dark, hyperkinetic and occasionally violent celebration of pushing the body to its limits.
On the softer side is Louis Laberge-Côté and Michael Caldwell’s et même après (And Even After). Partners in art and life, the piece began as an exploration of the distance between them, when they spent two years living on different continents shortly after tying the knot. Laberge-Côté had been offered a contract with a dance company in Germany, and Caldwell, busy with projects in Canada, elected to stay behind. Inspired by the challenges of a long-distance relationship, Laberge-Côté began developing the piece alone in his Mannheim apartment.
“Oddly, the physical distance made me feel closer to him,” Laberge-Côté says. “Paradoxically, the fear this same distance would one day dissolve our relationship was constantly with me. I had a very strong desire to explore the opposition between distance and intimacy. My aim was to choreograph a duet undeniably about intimacy in which the dancers never touch or even see each other.”
Also on the menu is Benjamin Landsberg’s Chemical Messengers. Last seen in Hari Krishnan’s all-gay extravaganza Quicksand, the Montreal dancer is one to watch. Featuring music by Trent Reznor and the Chemical Brothers, the electro-hybrid fairy tale for five dancers marks his first major work for the Toronto stage.
“It touches on multiple issues like dominance, aggression and the unseen theoretical intelligences that bind our universe together,” Landsberg says. “It ran the risk of being a bitter gay heartbreak piece or a hippie pro-hallucinogenic environmental statement. But now there’s an elegant middle ground. There’s definitely some rough physical interaction and ominous quasi-sexual movement vocabulary.”
Like a choreographic smorgasbord, there’s something for everyone. The pay-one-price admission allows audiences to come and go throughout, seeing only what they want and skipping anything that doesn’t appeal.
“In the end, dance is really very easy,” Jacob Edwards says. “You can just sit back and watch without looking for a deeper meaning. It’s a different experience for everyone. And coming to an event like this, you really have nothing to lose.”