Thursday, March 22, 2018

Toronto Dance Theatre's 50th Anniversary Season - Glass Fields

Glass Fields is a beautiful and vibrant re-imagining of classic Canadian choreography. Christopher House was inspired, 35 years ago, by Ann Southam's Glass Houses No. 5; a classic of Canadian contemporary music. He choreographed his take on  Southam's music, and Glass Houses, an historic collaboration, was born out of an articulate response to rhythm and melody between two artists;

Truth be told, I was as excited by the structure of Glass Houses No. 5 as by its melodies and rhythms. The score itself is only two pages long: an ostinato for the left hand, a series of tunes for the right, and a chart that describes the progression in which these two elements live together. It all looks very choreographic just sitting on the page! In the fall of 1983, in partnership with Merle Holloman, Helen Jones, Benoit Lachambre, Grace Miyazawa and Luc Tremblay, I began work on what became a signature work for TDT for a dozen years.

                                                                                                Christopher House

The program for the opening of TDT's 50th season is a kind of homage, by five choreographers (including House) to the original Southam/House collaboration. Glass Fields reveals, in five short works, a brilliant artistic continuum within Canadian contemporary dance, culminating in the original piece (Glass Houses). The balletic quality of House's work is distilled - and all but disappears - within four works that recall what Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times described, in the 1985 production of Glass Houses, as a "spewing forth [of] kinetic brilliance in the form of energy and continuum." 

Each work displays the incredibly concentrated ensemble work the music and the choreography depend upon. There is a flight like quality to both the dance and the melody as dancers utilize more non-balletic movement throughout, yet cite the more balletic formalism seen in the original. Almost always in groups of swarm-like magnetism, the dancers fly amongst each other with great agility and vibrance. All of the works succeed as independent sections of an overall succession. 

The placement of each piece gradually moves, form start to finish, with degrees of developing energy that thrills throughout and paves the way for the final re-enactment of Glass Houses. Brightly coloured costumes, in frequently gender blending form, compliment the movement for the most part. The first two pieces suffer slightly from garments that do not quite support the choreography with an obvious connection to the dance and the bodies at hand. But later in the program full length colourful, almost tubular attire, provides a sleek and evocative structure for the dance to present itself within - allowing skilled bodies to display their fine tuned collaboration within a thrilling corporeal splendour.

House's eye for an eclectic narrative and cultural base allowed him to investigate a variety of sources in the original. Glass Fields, as his current return to these sources, with the aid of five choreographers, re-imagines all of this - "the source material [House] used (club dancing, Robert Longo's Men in the Cities) and the zeitgeist of 1983 itself offered much for the five choreographers to work with." - Christopher House - program note

His generosity of spirit toward other choreographers, and the inclusion of his own 35 year old classic piece, gives Toronto Dance Theatre, and Canadian contemporary dance, another brilliant moment to acknowledge and to experience the effect of a continuous history of thrilling music and movement  for over a half century of artistic excellence receiving international acclaim.

for further information on the overall project see -

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