IN THE BONEYARD choreographed and directed by Christopher House, music by Joel Gibb. Presented by Toronto Dance Theatre at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West), from Tuesday (November 22) to November 26 at 8 pm. $17-$38. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
It's 5 pm friday at the Toronto Dance Theatre HQ, but nobody's even thinking about going home. They're too busy having fun. Dancer Kristy Kennedy is plucking a bass guitar. Louise Laberge-Càté is plunking out something on a xylophone.
Even Jessica Runge, very pregnant, is part of the action, occasionally strumming a few chords on an electric guitar.
What seems at first like an after-work jam session to let off some steam is actually a rehearsal for the most exciting dance event of this season: TDT's second collaboration with the Hidden Cameras.
"Who doesn't want to be in a rock 'n' roll band?" laughs Christopher House, who's choreographing and directing In The Boneyard, which opens Tuesday (November 22) at the Premiere Dance Theatre.
House had so much fun during their first collaboration, January 2004's You Are The Same, that he even played a concert with the band after the sold-out run ended.
Hidden Cameras frontman and writer Joel Gibb, for his part, has found new ways of using his body.
"My awareness of my body was just so heightened," he says. "By the end of the last show, we'd all go out dancing at clubs, and I was doing all sorts of crazy stuff on the dance floor."
"Joel," adds House, with an affectionate pat on the musician's head, "is a total dancer."
The collaboration seems like a natural fit. Alt-pop darlings the Hidden Cameras have always incorporated movement in their shows, and TDT is constantly searching for new ways to expand the limits of contemporary dance.
House first discovered the band while browsing at Pages Books back in 2002. Hearing the catchy tune Mild Mannered Army, he asked what it was and was told the band would be playing at the Reverb later that week. He went, and later caught them at a Power Plant fundraiser. It was a light bulb moment.
"As soon as I saw them in performance, I knew they weren't just about playing instruments," says House. "They're extremely physical performers. And because Joel's background includes academia, music and art, he's got a very different sensibility."
Gibb, meanwhile, was impressed with TDT's playful piece Severe Clear and was open to trying out something new.
"It's sort of the premise of the band, to merge things," he says. "We like to bring non-musicians into the band. We use dance and visual elements like projections in various ways. It's just a way of playing with the medium."
The show features a whole new set of songs by the group, some of which have never been performed live before. The complete disc hits the street next spring.
Serious dance fans won't be disappointed either. House insists the show's movement will consist of more than swaying to the beat. In the excerpts I see, it ranges from playful acrobatic moves with bones to tribal synchronized movements performed on a tall, multilevel scaffold.
"It's an interesting challenge choreographically, because we're dealing with songs that are about four minutes apiece," explains House. "There are conventions in pop about verse and chorus structures, so the variations within the songs are maybe subtler than you'd have with a longer piece of music.
"What's important is that the DNA of the music is in the movement choices."
Of course, both artists agree that mixing up genres is good for audience development. House just advises dance lovers to get their tickets early.
"A lot of dance people buy their seats at the last minute," he says. "You can't do that with pop music. Things sell out quickly."