ASYLUM OF SPOONS choreography by Allen Kaeja. Presented by Kaeja d'Dance at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West). Opens Tuesday (March 1) and runs Thursday to Saturday (March 3-5) at 8 pm. $22-$28, stu/srs $18. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
You can thank Honest Ed's for Allen Kaeja's latest work.
When the acclaimed dancer/choreographer unveils Asylum Of Spoons this Tuesday, there will be 2,000 stainless steel spoons onstage - each one of them bought in the housewares section of the famous department store.
Two years ago, a week into rehearsals for the piece, then titled Silence/Still, he found himself at the Bathurst emporium eyeing the spoons, on sale for 50 cents apiece.
"They had a nice weight, a good balance," he tells me. "Something about them attracted me."
He promptly bought 40 and sprang them on his dancers the next day during a structured improvisation rehearsal. The dancers, he says, "went insane with enthusiasm."
He returned to the store and bought 100, and then another 1,000. When the store ran out of stock, he talked to the buyer, who ordered another 10,000 for the store.
"The spoon," he says, pulling one out and letting me hold it, "is universal. It's part of nurturing, but it's also a currency. You give things and take away. There's emotion attached. There's the cradle of the spoon, but look," he raises the handle over my face, "it can also become a weapon."
Violence plays a pretty big part in Asylum. Set in the Edwardian era, it looks at a family headed by a strong matriarch. A possible murder has taken place before the show begins.
"I love that era because of the repression and the undercurrents of excitement," he says. The dancers begin in Edwardian-style clothes, gradually stripping off layers.
The choreography takes Kaeja's signature contact improv technique - which is about balancing with someone else's centre of power - and stepping it up a notch with a move he calls anchor throwing.
"Here's the principle," says Kaeja, who trained in judo before taking on dance. "If somebody comes at me and begins to give me their strength, I utilize that and turn it into momentum and propel that person into space. It's like a slingshot."
He demonstrates, twisting shoulders and arms in a blur of movement.
"There are duets happening that seem impossible. Women hurl each other as well as men."
As if anticipating my next question, he adds: "There is a safety mechanism. If we're doing something potentially dangerous, we have spotters. Someone's there to catch them."
Asylum marks Kaeja d'Dance's first full-length performance in T.O. in five years. Not that they've been idle. They've toured everywhere from Sweden to India. They teach at schools. Kaeja is commissioned by Soulpepper to work with writer Jason Sherman and composer David Buchbinder on a new piece debuting in 2007.
But the company has also been pioneers in the relatively new field of dance on film. A one-hour film version of Asylum Of Spoons is in pre-production, to be broadcast on Bravo.
"Working in film hasn't changed my physicality or dramatic intent, but it has changed the way I perceive a stage work, how I fill a through line," he says.
"At the theatre, you've bought a ticket. But the TV audience has a remote. Eight seconds of flak they're onto the Cartoon Network."