Birds of a Feather

I Saw choreography by peter chin and kathleen rea presented by princess productions at Dancemakers Studio (927 Dupont), Thursday to.

I Saw choreography by peter chin and kathleen rea presented by princess productions at Dancemakers Studio (927 Dupont), Thursday to Saturday (October 31 to November 2) at 8 pm. $16, stu/srs $12. 416-204-1082.

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Theirs seems like a match made in dance-studio heaven.I’m talking about Peter Chin and Marie-Josee Chartier, two of the city’s most unique choreographer/dancers, whose interests extend beyond the dance world into visual arts and music.

“She’s been there from my very first association with dance in Toronto,” says Chin, whose solo for Chartier, Mata Hari Terbenam, is featured in I Saw, a double bill featuring Chartier and Kathleen Rea.

Chin and Chartier danced together for choreographer Bill James. Chin also danced in Chartier’s first bit of choreography, and she performed in his Three Blondes, a work he took to an avant-garde fest in Jamaica.

“The bottom line is that we like each other,” he explains.

Mata Hari — the title translates roughly as Eye Of The Day Drowning — was originally conceived back in 1999. The two workshopped it but didn’t perform it in Toronto.

After that, Chartier’s husband, Michael Baker, became ill and died of cancer. The two are approaching the piece differently this time around.

“It’s become more personal, obviously more connected to events that happened in Marie-Josee’s life,” says Chin. He describes it as being about a bird in the forest who discovers she’s alone as the sun goes down.

“There’s more subtext now, more lived experience instead of intuited experience. I think there’s also a softer quality mixed in with what was formerly a prevailing fierceness.”

Chin says Chartier takes on several creatures during the show, including a bird, a baboon and a dog. Working on last season’s Bridge, where even the musicians got biomorphic, helped Chin create the movement, which isn’t so much mime as “capturing the animals’ energy.”

For Chin, this piece marks the first time a costume he’s created — oh yes, he designs and makes costumes as well as movement — is directly related to his choreography.

“The outfit she wears has a high collar she ducks into and comes out of, like an animal in a burrow,” he says. “It also takes on a sophisticated look, almost haute couture.”

Chin says it helps that he and Chartier share interests in music and visual arts.

“There’s an ease there,” says Chin, who’s also working on a large-scale (13 performers) Toronto Dance Theatre commission premiering at the end of November.

“I trust her judgment. Her changes come from the right instincts. Just the other day she suggested a different way she could physically approach a moment when she sings. The choreography I had given her wasn’t jibing with her. And she was right.”

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