Soir espoir choreography by Christopher House, part of Main Stage Series 1G along with choreography by Anh Nguyen and Mari Osanai. Presented by the fFIDA International Dance Festival at Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). August 13 at 6:30 pm, August 15 at 9:30 pm, August 17 at 8 pm. House also conducts Master Classes, August 11-15 at 10 am. $15 (show), $10 (class). 416-410-4291. www.ffida.org Rating: NNNNN
What does one dance artist think of another? Are they interested solely in technique and form? When they watch each other dance, do they see things that we non-dancers don't? Just ask Christopher House, the artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre and one of the big-name drawing cards at this year's fFIDA International Dance Festival, on through August 17.
In a unique piece entitled Soir espoir, the contemporary dance veteran collaborates with Guillaume Càté, a rising star at the National Ballet of Canada. The work came about from a series of 75 questions House asked Càté.
"I find him so interesting because he's obviously one of the chosen ones," says House, who first worked with the dancer four years ago, when Càté was a promising senior student at the National Ballet School dancing one of the choreographer's works.
"It's very obvious, to me and to the National, that he has the talent and the drive for a major career. So his presence onstage is very double-coded. When you see him, you see the dancer he is now, but you also imagine the dancer he's going to be later on."
Over the course of two sets of interviews, House asked Càté - who created the role of Will in James Kudelka's The Contract last season - lots of questions about dance itself. What are his strengths and weaknesses? How does he feel about dancing?
"I also asked him to name three of his favourite sounds," laughs House. "Or the smells he liked. Or who he'd invite to dinner if he could have three people join him. The answers to those questions told me more about him."
The answers inform the piece, although seldom in a literal fashion. You won't be watching a dance with a recorded Q&A playing in the background.
"There are snippets of text in the score, but they're used in a more abstract and ambiguous way," explains House, who's conducting public master classes next week. "His words and answers have sunk into the process."
House did use some music that Càté brought to the interviews. (Càté has composed music for several of choreographer Dominique Dumais's ballets.)
"What I discovered was that Guillaume's open-minded and interested in going on an adventure," says House about the ballet dancer's attitude. "He's relentless in his desire to experiment with new material and ideas.
"He's also realistic. He's confident, he knows all he has to offer, but he's respectful of his gifts and of the people he's working with. I think he's pretty well prepared for what's going to be happening to him in the next few years."