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TORONTO DANCE THEATRE.

TORONTO DANCE THEATRE JOYCE THEATER JANUARY 19-24, 1999

During the second half of the program at the Joyce Theater, Toronto Dance Theatre brought itself to a rolling boil and demonstrated its artistic identity. This was primarily due to the energetic works of director-choreographer Christopher House, who knows his dancers well and has the ability to show them to their best advantage. Using a combination of styles reminiscent of Jose Limon and Twyla Tharp, and a ballet vocabulary, he displayed a craft that speaks well for contemporary dance.

This was perhaps most evident in his rousing Vena Cava, which premiered in Toronto in November, set to a score by Robert Moran. The dancers were costumed in chic red and black: kilts for the men and long slit skirts for the women. House circulated the dancers about the stage in blood-pumping fashion, shaping entrances and exits that kept the space ricocheting with fleet, stylish dancing. The cast of twelve dancers, led by the dexterous Lara Barclay and James Robertson, danced with no lack of red blood cells.

An earlier piece by House, Fjeld (1990) made a quieter impact. Despite an ambiguous opening with a ceremonious figure in glam-rock platform shoes, and a group section that made me think of yaks in a blizzard, the three other adagio sequences were mesmerizing. Especially affecting were the duet for two tunic-clad women (Laura West and Barclay), and a languorous trio for men (Pascal Desrosiers, Terry Gardiner, and Graham McKelvie) which resembled a living Bernini sculpture. Both were grounded by the Gregorian chant--style music of Arvo Part. In this piece, the parts were definitely greater than the sum.

The program opener, Good Vibes, fell flat in its attempt to blend postmodern movement with theatrical gimmicks. Choreographer Mitch Kirsch, despite concocting some interesting phrases with whipping attitude turns, tried to superimpose pedestrian conversation and gestures on the work without success. The dancers were costumed in dreary striped silver pajamas.

It is hard to understand what James Kudelka was thinking when he choreographed Provincial Suite for TDT last year. An oddball piece at best, the ballet seems to be making a statement about hare-brained nationalism, although even that is questionable. The three women (Kirsten Andersen, Naoko Murakoshi, and West) and two men (Christopher Grider and Gardiner), all dressed in peasant dresses of indeterminate origin and wearing ill-fitting wigs, stomped around the stage in a wearisome, unfunny ritual.

The program included House's solo for himself, Schubert Dances (1985). House is extremely fluid, with impressive lines. But the piece proved choppy at times, adding a staccato quality not suited to the lyrical piano pieces which were played caressingly by David Shimoni; it did not fully allow House to unleash his movement.

It would be wise for this company to choose its repertory more carefully, particularly for a New York season.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:CARMAN, JOSEPH
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:May 1, 1999
Words:470
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