FACING SHADOWS/RETURNING ECHOES choreography by Robert Glumbek, Dominique Dumais and Tedd Robinson. Presented by Tiger Princess Dance Projects at the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester). Opens Thursday (October 28) and runs to October 30 at 8 pm. $18, stu/srs $14. 416-504-7529.
NO MAN'S LAND choreography by Michael Du Maresq. Presented by Du Maresq at the Winchester Street Theatre. Opens Wednesday (November 3) and runs to November 7, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $18, stu/srs $14. 416-504-6429 ext 33.
Call it the dance Zeitgeist. This week, at the same space and within a few days of each other, two mid-career indie male dance artists are debuting new works. Both are highly personal pieces that have some connection to Europe. Fortunately for us, it's possible to see both.
First up is Robert Glumbek, who's been moving his feet non-stop since returning here three months ago from Germany, where he was senior soloist and ballet master at the Mannheim National Theatre since 2002.
"I'm back, refreshed and full of things I want to do here," enthuses Glumbek a week before his series of duets with Yvonne Ng goes up at the Winchester.
The pair obviously share an onstage chemistry. They presented an acclaimed duet showcase three years ago (one of the duets, Tedd Robinson's Stone Velvet, makes a return appearance on this program). She's Chinese-Canadian, 4-foot-10, with long black hair; he's Polish-Canadian, much taller, with a shaved head.
"It's not that I'm incredibly tall, but I think the contrast is quite dramatic," laughs Glumbek hot on the heels of his acclaimed appearance at pal Roberto Campanella's ProArteDanze showcase last weekend. "More importantly, she's a good partner. She understands me without having to get into tiny details, and can take abuse - in a good way."
Besides the Robinson remount, the bill includes a piece by Glumbek himself, inspired by carrying his infant daughter around with him on his back.
"Yvonne's in a sort of harness on my back," explains Glumbek. "I wanted to explore that relationship. What's it like to experience this physically? You're stuck with that person, and vice versa. Needless to say, it's been pretty difficult rehearsing. The piece is seven minutes long, but I'm not even really dancing yet. It's got to be more than just me standing around."
Dancer/choreographer Michael Du Maresq's connection to his new piece, No Man's Land, is just as personal, although he's carrying a different sort of load on his back.
He's wanted to create a piece about the late Timothy Findley's novel The Wars for years, but didn't want to do a dramatic interpretation of the work. Then, about five years ago, he discovered photos of men from the first world war. He learned that one of the men in the photos was engaged to his grandmother, while another was his grandmother's brother.
"This was my window into the book, the personal connection I needed into that period," says Du Maresq. "It was also a way of weaving together real events with fiction, which is what Findley did, too."
Du Maresq says when he originally read the book, at 20, he identified with the novel's protagonist, Robert Ross.
"It was a time of figuring out who you were and what you were going to do, of questioning your sexual identity, just like Robert," he recalls. "Now, I've been identifying with the novel's archivist character. She's immersed in photographs, facts, trying to piece together Robert's story."
Not getting stuck in history has been one of Du Maresq's challenges. Dancer/storyteller Sarah Chase has helped him boil down his material to its essence. Still, there are sequences he knew he wanted in the work. One deals with the mud in the trenches. Another takes on the most controversial section of the novel, the rape scene.
"So many people, including Margaret Laurence, tried to talk Findley out of including the rape scene," he points out. "But Findley put it in because he felt those soldiers were metaphorically raped. They spent four years in misery. The war was their loss of innocence."
Du Maresq's treatment includes rare audio excerpts of Findley reading from that passage, as well as an image of a tub and water.
A big vote of confidence has come via Findley's long-time partner, William Whitehead. Whitehead will read at a special fundraising performance of the show on November 6.
Despite a current war raging, Du Maresq has shied away from any contemporary allusions.
"People can think for themselves," he says. "We've been watching what's been happening in Iraq, just as we did a decade ago in the Gulf. I'm hoping the audience can look at this piece as a capsule in time. Maybe we'll learn our lesson and find other ways of resolving conflicts."