THE HOME SEASON choreography by Michael Trent. Presented by Dancemakers at the Dancemakers Centre for Creation (55 Mill). Opens Wednesday (November 8) and runs to November 19, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2 pm. $18-$22, Sunday pwyc. 416 367-1800. Rating: NNNNN
Michael Trent is telling one of his dancers to place a wooden crate just so.
"A little bit back," he says, his eyes peering over his glasses and surveying the stage picture.
Soon, all seven Dancemakers performers begin weaving around each other, executing their complicated moves on top of those crates. Good thing Trent spoke out. One wrong step and it could be trouble.
Trent is performing his own balancing act these days as the new artistic director of the company, the first in 16 years.
He looks relaxed despite the fact that all eyes in the dance community are on him to see how he'll guide a company that's lost its footing over the past few years, sliding into narcissism under its former head, Serge Bennathan.
Trent's kicking off his tenure with The Home Season, a program whose title, perhaps intentionally, sounds more like a sports event. The lineup consists of two of his own pieces, a remount of the 2001 ensemble work Random Access and the world premiere of Dark, Quiet And Cool, which Trent will dance - talk about balls - by himself.
"It's important to establish my own aesthetic point of view right off the bat," says Trent, who compared to Bennathan's French savoir faire radiates a humble, shaggy, graduate student type of charm (holey socks, mussed hair). "I won't be looking at Serge's repertoire for at least three years."
Trent's best known as an elegant, graceful performer whose quicksilver movements gained him attention during eight seasons with Toronto Dance Theatre. He left there in 1998, and besides teaching and dancing for others, has created a number of strong works for his company, the empty collective.
All of which, he says, has given him the multi-tasking skills needed to run a larger organization.
"I actually had more work as dancer, teacher and choreographer than I was able to take," he says. "I had to administer things as an independent artist, so there's not going to be a big learning curve. I'm basically doing what I did as an indie artist, just under a bigger umbrella."
Trent's already learned how to deliver a slick presentation for the media or board of directors. He tells me about the company's new vision, which he's calling "the three C's."
"The work's got to be contemporary, at the vanguard of the art form. It's cross-disciplinary. And it's also collaborative. All programming and curating will be done through the filter of those things, and must have one, two or three of them."
Right after his own double bill goes up, he's launching something called Fast Track, a three-day creation series pairing a choreographer with somebody in another discipline. Each duo will have a day to work with the Dancemakers artists and then put up a show that night.
The pairs include dancer/choreographer Heidi Strauss and theatre/ opera director Guillaume Bernardi, former Dancemakers performer Susie Burpee and the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre, and the unclassifiable choreographer/dancer Tedd Robinson, who's going to choose his collaborator a week before the event.
"Fast Track crystallizes the notion of the three C's," says Trent, smiling slightly at the gimmicky sound of the phrase. "I wanted to create a buzz of immediacy and need to create. It's about taking risks, fast and furious creation."
He also wants to get Dancemakers touring, something that's been put on hold recently while the troupe set up its new home at the Distillery.
"It's important for Canada to place itself on the world stage, literally and philosophically. But," he adds, hinting that he'll be an active political voice on the scene, "touring these days is a very dicey issue, especially with Stephen Harper around."