Thursday, April 7, 2016


Jackie Burroughs is Dead 
& what are you going to do about it?
photos by Jeremy Mimnagh
As we were about to begin our first rehearsals, Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs died. For those of you who don’t know, Jackie Burroughs had a deep affinity for dance and was a constant presence in the Toronto dance scene. We all in some way or another had a connection with her. I reflected on the last time I had seen her as well as the times we had spoken throughout the years. Collectively, these encounters were relatively few, but each still registers. Jackie’s passing came at a fragile time. The title of our piece arose from that initial rehearsal where I was perplexed, angry and lost at the sheer amount existence was demanding I absorb. Jackie’s presence, and absence - even someone on the periphery of my own personal life - could not be dismissed. She came to represent to me a kind of collectiveness of the world, and the community in which I live.
                                                        DA Hoskins - programme notes
By creating such an engaging and performative title for a seventy minute piece of modern dance the artists involved have engaged the audience before the program even begins. How can choreography do justice to the work of a remarkable performer whose presence within Canadian theatre and television, over a long career, showcased the unique physical and vocal skills of a woman whose characterizations somehow spoke to both the fragility and the strength of human existence?

The title suggests a kind of void that must be filled by a collective unconscious that longs to celebrate and remember Jackie Burroughs. Perhaps the best thing to do in the face of such an iconic presence, and subsequent absence, is to not refer specifically to the title in any direct manner  throughout - and this is just what occurs. And yet, a moment never passes when the sense of Burrough's presence permeates the subtle, at times explosive movement of three dancers whose performances may be likened to a kind of channeling effect - “the collectiveness of the world, and the” (Hoskins) communities that we inhabit as artists, spectators, and the spirit of all that we leave behind. 
Danielle Baskerville, Luke Harwood, and Robert Kingsbury enact this seemingly spirit based environment within the lush, always evocative and ever changing soundscape of an onstage musician (Christopher Willes) as he provides a climate of immense textural scope for them to inhabit - all presented on a stark white floor that sends everything into shades of both high and low relief.

Intense eye contact that moves into and throough the dancers bodies, subtle gestural movements, and elastic, manic implosions that appear to both pivot and bounce upon the blanched ghostly floor, fill the seventy minutes with beautiful tones of presence, absence, and the all-consuming through-line of mortality that touches all of our lives, all through our lives - until the end.
When Hoskins speaks of “the call of mortality [as it] changes how you live…changes the sensations of life, of your awareness to the outside world” we are drawn into a textual world that utilizes the iconic presence of a beloved artist in order investigate the intense spirit of her life, our own lives, and the ways in which we navigate physicality in relation “to the temporary, the immediate, the tactile.”

Hoskins choreography is at once meditative, manic, implosive and explosive as three bodies show spectators what they are going to do about it - how to move, live, dance, and continue to journey through the maze of all the sadnesses and celebrations of mortality, and ultimately, our fleeting brushes with physical bodies as evocative and talents as magnificent as the life and the artistry of Jackie Burroughs. 
Harbourfront Centre Theatre April 7-9, 8PM

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