Monday, September 23, 2013


firstthingsfirst productions
with a trace

Kate Holden

Three challenging and rigorous pieces of choreography opened the Danceworks 2013-14 season with  firstthingsfirst productions'  gorgeous mixed bag of elegance, staccato psychological volatility, and a narrative duet that created an exquisite example of explosive, lively dance theatre.

Opening with  a form of ponderous beautiful physical memory, set to the romantic strains of Johannes Brahms' opus 39, and original music by Joshua Van Tassel, Kate Holden re-shaped and re-interpreted Peggy Bakers this body of memory/Brahms Waltzes, giving spectators a re-imagining of a classic 1990's creation. Via Baker's original concept, The Choreographer's Trust, Holden was given the unique opportunity to follow her instincts through a kind of emotional and physical recall that re-traced the original choreography, yet diverged from Baker's steps, evolving "through the lens of memory" and ultimately revealing "the traces it embedded in her muscle memory more than a decade ago" when she first learned the piece from Baker. The end result is a lovely, ponderous exploration of corporeal nuance celebrating a kind of introspective romance between memory, the body, and past physical encounters with the dancing self.
Kate Franklin

Gotta Go Church is an enigmatic and psychologically exhilarating interrogation of "spiritual energy" that took unexpected narrative leaps, placing the dancer in the audience at one point and then taking her back onstage to convulse both tragically and comically through a series of movements that pulled Kate Franklin's body into particular "physical states ... as a path towards being present onstage." Similar to the re-imaging of the opening piece, this collaboration with Frankiln and Valerie Calam/Company Vice Versa possessed fine moments of intense physical imagery and provocative contortions, yet wandered at times through what the collaborators have called "a space where [the dancer] is free to make decisions in the moment, while maintaining a pre-determined structure and arc." This daring and risky choreographic choice infused the piece with an improvisational quality that ran into a few cliched moments here and there, yet culminated with a powerful finale that brought the sequence back to the more successful nuances of the initial explosiveness and fully engaged physicality. Sound design by Paul Shepherd added an emphatic narrative site that felt distracting at times yet echoed that intense physical intuitiveness the overall piece strove to embrace.

Kate Holden and Marc Boivin

The most diverse and invigorating moments of the evening occurred between Marc Boivin and Kate Holden in Melanie Demer's (in collaboration with Holden and Boivin) Would. Boivin initiated the spoken elements with sound and language that moved from playful and quirky to direct and subtle at a moments notice. Similarly, the movements between the two dancers leapt in and out of intense, near viloent episodes and playful fun loving entanglements. The gender balance was equalized in the more violent chorepgraphy as Holden took the upper hand after a series of very aggressive movements by Boivin. The overall piece is a wonderful mixture of frolicking voice and physicality-cum-engrossing aggression that is deascribed as a dance sequence that "is almost like taming a wild animal." In a program note Demers eloquently and concisely describes the strength of the piece and the performers when she says  that the wild animal/beast metaphor that creates the central impulse for Would is "embodied by two great perfromers who are equally sophisticated, yet not domesticated."

The overall evening possessed a fine example of truly sophisitcated dance that drew from shared trust, re-interpretations of classic choreography, and improvisational moments that allowed the artists to trace and re-trace primal physical and emotional impulses as they displayed immensly measured skill and liberating intuitive prowess.

with a trace ran at the ENWAVE THEATRE from 
Sepetmber 19th-21st, 2013
(Harbourfront Centre)  

Kate Holden and Marc Boivin

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