>>> Review: This Dance

Kate Alton's autobiographical show made up of talk and dance is incredibly moving

THIS DANCE by Kate Alton (Crooked Figure Dances and Hub 14, 14 Markham). Runs to November 15, 7:30 pm. $15. eventbrite.ca. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Away from the performance scene for a number of years (nursing injuries and raising twins), veteran dance artist Kate Alton has been missed. The feeling was mutual, as she explains at one point in her new collaborative solo dance/monologue, This Dance. The woman loves to perform.

The work is short and perhaps unfinished, but that’s okay. A hybrid made up of talk and movement, it’s wryly funny and warm. I have the sense that it will continue to evolve over the course of the run, and perhaps beyond.  

There is no backstage in this tiny space it’s a bit like being in someone’s living room. Alton is suitably unfussy, greeting audience members while warming up. The piece “starts” when she slowly spreads her impossibly long arms out and up. It’s a thrilling moment and underscores for anyone who doesn’t yet know it that Alton has special gifts.

The flow in and out of focused dance movement and the sharing of anecdotes is one of the most charming aspects of This Dance. Alton riffs on the mechanics of breast-feeding twins and how she likes to put on dresses and dance with her babies to guitar music. Projections of her children periodically shine from a side wall.

As for the more defined dance sections, Alton sourced movement for the piece from five different choreographers she admires (Allison Cummings, Luke Garwood, D.A. Hoskins, James Kudelka and Claudia Moore), but tells us she has taken “great liberties” with the material.

For example, she speaks about how she can no longer physically perform the difficult solo Kudelka made for her, but gives it a go anyway, spinning around the room, all baroquely curved twisting arms. She has emptied a bag of plastic children’s toys onto the floor and kicks them aside as she dances, finally picking up a kid’s music machine, which tinnily plays Tchaikovsky.

This leads into a section in which she rests on the floor while we all listen to a recording of her physician describing Alton’s osteoarthritis and how it will affect her range of motion going forward. “Your expression will have to come from your upper body,” the doctor says at one point.

Near the end of the work, Alton notes that she feels like two Kates – the Kate of the “undulating sex goddess” press notices she received pre-motherhood and the Kate she is now.

As a performer, the earlier Kate was pretty great but the current Kate is just as a compelling, in different and even more moving ways.

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