Toronto
2 min

Two queens

Double meanings take flight

A BIG DRESS. Both Queen Elizabeth I and coming out factor into Matjash Mrozewski's Virgin Queen featuring dancer Kristy Kennedy. Credit: Cylla Von tiedemann

“It’s not a period piece, but there’s one incredibly exquisite period costume involved,” says 26-year-old choreographer Matjash Mrozewski of his latest work, Virgin Queen. “I tend to like to have a woman in a big dress in my pieces.”



Virgin Queen will be presented on a double bill at Toronto Dance Theatre, along with Converse, a new work by the choreographer, composer and costume designer Peter Chin. Both pieces by the award-winning Toronto-based choreographers are world premieres, performed by TDT company members and commissioned by artistic director, Christopher House.



The initial inspiration for Mrozewski’s piece came while he was reading a biography on Elizabeth I. “It was just a fleeting thought at the time,” says Mrozewski. “But I realized how the term ‘virgin queen’ could also apply to a young gay man.”



The piece, performed by 12 dancers to a score of contemporary works by Gorecki, Alexander Knaifel and some additional electronic music, features two main characters of opposing nature.



“Elizabeth was an interesting, difficult woman who negated a lot of very basic human needs and desires in order to fulfill her potential and live out her destiny,” says Mrozewski. “She sacrificed love for her greater responsibility.”



For the other virgin queen, Mrozewski looked at his own coming of age – the joyous and sometimes painful initiation into the adult world of sex and love.



“I thought it was a strong idea to have two paths that diverge and run concurrently,” says Mrozewski. “There is one person who shies away and resists all of those urges, and someone who runs towards them and embraces them.



“I hope it works.”



The concept of Peter Chin’s piece, Converse, is also inspired by the double meaning of its title.



“In my mind, I had an image of people speaking to each other,” says Chin. “Different kinds of dialogue and conversation both between people and themselves, between people and people, and between people and something bigger than themselves.”



This extremely physical work also incorporates a lot of speaking, and the performers will be wearing body mics so that they can be heard. “A lot of what they say explores the converse meaning of the words,” says Chin. “Or sometimes the performers use words just as sound that matches the energy of what they’re dancing.”



Chin composed his own score for Converse. “The piece is written for percussion, violin, cello, female voice and harp,” says Chin. “I’m a classically trained musician, but the music is inspired by non-western influences.”



And it is notable that Christopher House will be making a rare appearance as a performer in Converse.



“He had seen my work before and he said it would be fun to dance in one of my pieces,” says Chin. “So, once I got over the shock, we talked about it, and he asked me to think about if there might be a way of fitting him into the new piece. I thought about it, and it’s working really well. It’s a real honour.”



VIRGIN QUEEN & CONVERSE.

$16.75-$37.50. 8pm. Tue, Nov 26-30.

Premiere Dance Theatre.

207 Queen’s Quay W.

(416) 973-4000.

www.tdt.org.