The river flowed both ways. The current moved from north to south, but the wind usually came from the south, rippling the bronze-green water in the opposite direction. This apparently impossible contradiction, made apparent and possible, still fascinated Morag, even after the years of river-watching.
Set to the relentless, abruptly fluid beauty of Ann Southam’s music, the recent Toronto Dance Theatre production of Rivers was a truly multi-disciplinary event that offered up the very best from the worlds of music, choreography and design. Michael Levine’s gorgeous minimalist setting caught the eye immediately as a simple backdrop swept from floor to ceiling, providing the dancers with a haunting ground upon which to render the sharp, at times minute movement of limbs and nimble extremities that marked the latest offering from acclaimed choreographer Christopher House.
At once individual, grand, and introverted, like small ripples on a vast aqueous surface, and then breaking into ensemble moments suggesting the more tumultuous, yet deceptively gradual movement of large rolling waves, Rivers, the music and the choreography, was a multi-layered examination of the agile abilities, both expansive and intricate, of water and the human body, as they interact with each other through evocative sound and physicalized metaphor.
The presence of internationally acclaimed pianist Christina Petrowska Qullico, an artist closely associated with Southam’s work, was a breathtaking addition to the visual and aural feast. With a powerful yet demure grace she took her position stage left with an intense aesthetic authority and flawless skill, both dividing and merging the viewer’s attention to the panoply of detail that both electrified and haunted the stage as bodies moved with close attention to a score that House feels demands that artists must “be very present in the moment.” Petrowska Qullico’s black gown was a dazzling touch that bespoke the simple glamour of a skilled musician immersed in the timelessness of great art and artfulness as she masterfully followed the multiple pages distributed like over-sized maps above her hands.
Ultimately, there was a deceptive austerity to the overall piece that moved in an out of light and shadow, both on and off of Levine’s gorgeous central playing space, as the dancers took the idea of water and the river and, in the words of another great Canadian artist, made it move both ways.
RIVERS RAN AT THE FLECK DANCE THEATRE, HARBOURFRONT, FROM APRIL 25TH UNTIL APRIL 28TH