BRUSSELS/TORONTO PROJECT choreographed by Etienne Guilloteau and Thomas Hauert (Toronto Dance Theatre). At the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester). To April 27. $26, stu/srs $20. 416-967-1365, tdt.org. See listings. Rating: NNNN
The Brussels/Toronto Project (part of Toronto Dance Theatre's occasional residency and creation exchange with international choreographers) is a double bill that meditates on the mechanics and dynamics of ensemble dancing - with superb craftsmanship and charm.
In Etienne Guilloteau's The Gyres, five performers - half the company - dance a constellation that expands and circles in on itself. Each has a signature move or two: Alana Elmer pauses for a brief stop-motion robot dance, Yuichiro Inoue periodically executes a bravura turning leap, Kaitlin Standeven spin-jumps with lofty precision. These physical motifs create striking pools of focus amidst hurrying swirls of motion. The work is very much of the music - Elliott Carter's propulsive Piano Concerto - progressing inexorably in a way that feels both balletic and modern, formal and at ease.
The other half of the company get their chance to shine in Thomas Hauert's Pond Skaters, a very different take on dancing in a group, also with a cast of five. The tone is set by the decor elements - stripes of sunlight across the floor, crazy pyjama costumes in violent patterns of roses and diamonds - and by a soundscape of bullfrog, insect and waterfowl sounds that alternates with snippets of medieval music, Stravinsky and Debussy.
Hauert, in collaboration with the cast, has devised disciplined structures within which much of the movement is improvised. The resulting controlled circus of dance is utterly fresh, the personalities of the dancers shining through with warmth and humour.
Mairi Greig, especially, exudes innocence and clownishness to great effect; her duet with Pulga Muchochoma, in which she first observes and then mimics the high-octane abandonment of his dance, is a high point. As is a slinky cluster dance low to the floor in which the dancers exert force on each other's limbs without ever actually touching.
The European aesthetic looks great on TDT. Save yourself a trip and see it here.