Dance comes in all shapes and sizes, a fact proved by two vastly different recent shows at Harbourfront's Premiere Dance Theatre. Both Toronto's Ballet Creole (March 10-12) and Manhattan's Stephen Petronio Company (March 15-19) delivered intense performances, buzzing with passion.
Creole's works - primarily African- and Caribbean-based - seem to bob down a teeming, winding river, offering and sampling cultural and personal exchanges with loving candour. Petronio's show navigates an über-planned chaos, compass in hand, emotional journeys tightly mapped out.
Creole's is new dance rooted in tradition, Petronio's new dance anchored in technique.
To celebrate its 15th anniversary, founder/director/choreographer/ dancer Patrick Parson 's Ballet Creole offered The Journey Continues , by three choreographers including himself. Seductive drumming and enchanting voices captivated throughout. The dancers, some with waning or lesser ability, performed four pieces ranging from engaging to clichéd.
Gabby Kamino 's The Weight Of Joy proved pleasantly groovy, and Milton Myers 's Reflection In Love (three duets for Parson and guest artist partner Bergen Wheeler ), while endearing, couldn't shake its banality. Danced to Ray Charles tunes, it avoided the bin largely because of Wheeler's technique and charm.
Parson's Saraka, a big drum fete in which (according to the program) "West and Central African nations unite to give thanks," featured sexy live drumming and swirling energy. While such high-energy passion was captivating, Saraka - and later on Parson's Dancing Spirits - both had a dance marathon feel. Consuelo Herrera , Dancing Spirits' remarkably engaging Chantwell, and Brazilian-Canadian choreographer Newton Moraes infused the piece with Afro-Cuban and -Brazilian flair and theatricality.
While absolute polish eludes the company, straggly bits like stray hands, unsure focus and flubbed synchronicities were reined in. Kudos to training program student Jelani Ade Douglas for fluid precision, lightness and musicality.
Cool, then tedious
Petronio's 20-year-old company is currently composed of nine dancers plus Petronio, all of them smokin' technicians with a collectively generous, intelligent presence perfect for such high-gloss choreography. Moments into Broken Man, performed solo by choreographer Petronio, I felt, "Damn I'm going to like this show." And I did: fab music; kooky, clean movement; Willem Dafoe's reading voice; hip costumes. For a while.
Petronio's character in Broken Man seemed quasi-comfy in his disjointed suffering. City Of Twist and the lengthier The Island Of Misfit Toys, however, continued with a similar vocabulary, ambience and intensity. A deliciously clever floor-work duet provided memorable respite from it all.
Multi-layered to dizzying proportions, the work does seem a blast to perform. Cindy Sherman 's signature stage design - including creepy plastic doll faces - enhanced the unity. Tedious and dated, the show looked frustrated, as though trapped chasing its own otherwise talented tail.