Ryan Lee (left), Kaitlin Standeven, Jillian Peever and Brodie Stevenson spring to life in a lovely work by Estelle Clareton.
FOUR AT THE WINCH QUEBEC choreography by Estelle Clareton, Lina Cruz, Deborah Dunn and Jean-Sébastien Lourdais (Toronto Dance Theatre). At the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester). To March 3. 8 pm. $20-$26. 416-967-1365. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Toronto Dance Theatre's annual dance showcase goes français this season with an eclectic program by four Montreal choreographers that illustrates just how much diversity there is in la belle province.
Estelle Clareton's Etude sur l'amour/printemps is the perfect piece to usher in spring. A suit-wearing observer (Peter Hessel) sets the thematic tone by pronouncing "love" and "l'amour" in several amusing ways, after which he witnesses courtships and couplings by half a dozen dancers, all performed to Eric Forget's score of awakening nature sounds.
There's lots of animal competitiveness on display as the dancers attempt to pair up, Forget's soundscape eventually morphing into something tribal and primitive. Look for a wild, loose-limbed solo by Pulga Muchochoma.
Jean-Sébastien Lourdais's Etrange contrasts with this beautifully. In the near darkness, a figure (Naishi Wang) unfurls his limbs like some prehistoric creature. Two others (Yuichiro Inoue and Mairi Greig) soon join him in a series of slow and measured moves that resemble corporeal Rorschach tests. Then, in the playful second part, they all let loose, embracing their inner animals to vie for stage supremacy.
The highlight of the second half is Lina Cruz's Pop Out Your Apples And Enjoy The View, a stylish, surreal piece that wouldn't be out of place in a Fellini fantasy. Cruz has a whimsical dance vocabulary and great eye for the striking image, whether it's a woman (Jillian Peever) forced to climb to the top of a pillar or the William Tell-inspired scene in which the dancers balance apples on their heads, which soon segues into something evoking an Indian goddess.
The one weak link in the program is Deborah Dunn's Men Come, men go, a ponderous, pretentious piece about gung-ho American military values that uses chopped-up bits of audio from Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux to show how dehumanizing war is. Nothing new here.