ProArteDanza lineup includes some bold steps

Three new pieces push the contemporary ballet company in different directions – with intriguing results


PROARTEDANZA: SEASON 2017 by Matjash Mrozewski with Anna Chatterton, Kevin O’Day and the company (Harbourfront Next Steps/ProArteDanza). At Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West). Runs to November 4, 8 pm. $22-$50. 416-973-4000. See listing. Rating: NNNN


With the three world premieres on ProArteDanza’s 2017 season show, artistic director Roberto Campanella is pushing the contemporary ballet company in new directions, broadening its range of styles with mixed, yet intriguing results. 

Future perfect continuous is an ambitious collaborative effort by choreographer/director Matjash Mrozewski and playwright/performer Anna Chatterton. The subject matter is climate change and our collective inability to grasp, articulate or do anything about it. Chatterton’s text intentionally consists of banalities, which are repeated in a single monologue at the end, in case we missed any of the infuriating excuses being tossed around. (That’s unlikely: everyone onstage is properly microphoned, text-rehearsed and clearly audible, a rarity when dancers are required to speak onstage.)

The many intentionally awkward moments generated by the text are relieved by Mrozewski’s elegant choreography, in which groups of bodies swirl across the stage, running and diving into somersaults, or individuals repeat gestures to connote thought (hand to chin) or despair (hands to the back of the neck). And a few absurdist blips lighten up the staging: a yellow balloon carried around by a performer, a brief commentary on the seriousness of the choreographer and the writer, a monologue that originates with a performer sitting in the audience.

But any message of hope falls flat, no answers are attempted and we’re left with the uneasy sense that we’re all failing.

American choreographer Kevin O’Day’s adjusted surrender is a duet for Robert Glumbek and Johanna Bergfelt. It intrigues from the start as Glumbek slowly unloads a tall stack of wide-brimmed hats while Bergfelt’s dress comes undone layer by translucent layer until she sheds it like a snakeskin. The pair are mature, skilled performers who have deep reserves of artistry and life experience from which to draw. Together they build layers of meaning with every glance and gesture. But I wonder if this mysterious duet, with its tense physicality binding the performers tightly together, would play as well on less gifted or younger performers.

Another new O’Day piece closes the evening. Op Sha! is a raucous dance to a selection of music from the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, a much-loved Toronto institution that has been described as a ”Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Party-Punk Superband.”

Although O’Day occasionally resorts to overly familiar folkloric shenanigans – drunk male group dances, a gender-based poke and response sequence – it is still fun to see this talented company get down and dirty with the earthy syncopations of a decidedly un-classical score.

I especially loved watching Tori Mehaffey, Ryan Lee and Benjamin Landsberg burn the floor with coiled yet easy muscularity.

Though this program of premieres may be less easily digestible than some previous ProArte shows, the dancing, as always, is outstanding.

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