AFLUTTER choreography by Heidi Strauss, Deja Donne and Sylvain Emard. Presented by DanceWorks/Strauss/Four Chambers at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Tonight (Thursday) to Saturday (April 7 to 9) at 8 pm. $24, stu/srs $16. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
Heidi Strauss and Darryl Tracy have danced together for years, but last month they took their partnering to a new level. The two holed up in a small Italian village to work on a piece inspired by their relationship - part of their mixed program, Aflutter, on at Harbourfront over the weekend.
Italy, dancing, friendship. Sounds nice, right? Think again.
"It was the coldest winter there in 60 years," moans Strauss. "We were rehearsing on the smallest stage I've ever seen, with no central heating. As soon as you turned the heater off it got cold within seconds."
On top of that, they were working with the Czech choreography team of Deja Donne, who - looking for material for the piece - were probing them for intimate details about their lives.
"They were asking about our fears and the things we felt made life worth living," says Strauss. "We didn't know them. How can you open up your rib cage like that to strangers? But what happened was, Darryl and I started to take care of each other - we got really emotional. For the first time, we had the chance to formally recognize our history together and the history of our company."
That company, the Four Chambers dance project, has presented some of the most thrilling and eclectic dance in recent years. In two previous programs, choreographers as diverse as Sarah Chase, Julia Sasso and Conrad Alexandrowicz have created duets for the two contrasting dancers.
Aflutter marks a departure. Besides the Deja Donne duet and a remount of Sylvain Emard's exquisite 2001 piece Comme Deux Solitudes, the company's premiering their first solo, AtLast, created and performed by Strauss.
AtLast is inspired by a visit Strauss made with her father to his childhood home in Leipzig. Buildings were overgrown with weeds. Where a statue of Schiller had stood there was only an empty pedestal. And the building he was born in?
"It was there," recalls Strauss. "But we walked up to the third floor and my father did something I've never seen him do. He took a paper airplane from the pocket of his suit jacket and made it fly. I never played games with him. I never knew he could make a paper airplane."
One of the themes behind Aflutter, she says, is finding evidence.
"In dance, nothing lasts. Everything is in the moment, then it's gone. There's nothing concrete about what I do. We work all our lives to create something, only to have it last in our minds the way my father remembered his home."