Peter Chin stuck it to Harper, then transmitted the Invisible (left), and Bill T. Jones’s Chapel/Chapter shook up World Stage.
Our premiere dance venue got a facelift and new name, two U.S. superstar choreographers made spectacular appearances and a local luminary celebrated a lifetime of work. Here's what moved me greatly in 2008.
1. Premiere Dance Theatre 25
Fleck Dance Theatre, September 25-27
The theatre turned a quarter-century and received a new name, the Fleck, with one kick-ass show as a party. A who's who of artists who'd performed there over the years got up to recount a dance-related story and then improvised movement. Peter Chin, who had an amazing year, stole the show with his whimsical rant that included a dig at the Harper government.
2. Mozart Dances
MacMillan Theatre, June 6-8
One-time enfant terrible Mark Morris (above) and his company launched Luminato's dance program with three full-length works demonstrating what world-class modern dance is all about. Most exciting was the fest opener, an exuberant, sunny, gorgeous triptych performed flawlessly to live Mozart piano sonatas.
Enwave Theatre, April 16-19
Bill T. Jones took on murder, the legal system and organized religion in this hypnotic, beautifully suggestive work about justice and forgiveness. Most intriguing design of any dance show this year, and a highlight at World Stage.
4. Vanishing Acts
Fermenting Cellar, May 21-24
Danny Grossman helped revolutionize Toronto's dance scene, and this look back at some of his company's three-decade history was a dance aficionado's dream. Full of old handbills, taped interviews and hilarious photos, it also gave us the ageless icon getting up to do push-ups for one of his signature works.
5. Transmission Of The Invisible
Enwave Theatre, February 7-10
Examining the legacy of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide, Peter Chin employed a mix of Cambodian and Canadian dancers, richly textured multimedia elements and choreography that made dance ecstatic and urgent.
6. The Seagull
Four Seasons Centre, November 14-23
A Chekhov ballet might seem a contradiction in terms - where's the story? - but John Neumeier imaginatively transplanted the Russian master's tragicomedy to the changing world of dance itself, providing a half-dozen juicy roles for the National Ballet of Canada. It's a work that will grow richer each time you see it.
7. Lost Action
Fleck Dance Theatre, November 26-29
Shows like this mesmerizing look at violence and war demonstrate that BC choreographer Crystal Pite deserves her status as an international dance star. Performed before a curtain of poppies (!), Pite's choreographic images were burned into the mind.
8. 24 Preludes
Four Seasons Centre, March 9-16
Marie Chouinard's cheeky 1999 work set to 24 preludes by Chopin upstaged the other works on this National Ballet mixed bill, especially a silly work set to Rolling Stones songs (see below). Chouinard knows how to show off the human body in space like no one else.
9. La Pornographie des Ames
Fleck Dance Theatre, November 12-15
Nothing got intermission audiences yapping like Dave St-Pierre's dissection of love and sex. This alphabet of human cruelty smeared our faces in provocative images but also offered up redemption and catharsis.
10. Bloodletting & Other Pleasant Things
Dancemakers, October 22-November 2
Montreal choreographer Tony Chong and a fluid Dancemakers ensemble pushed our emotional buttons in this playful, visceral look at anger. Non-narrative dance at its edgiest.
Rooster/The Fiddle & The Drum
Karen Kain is doing great things at the National Ballet (see above), but these two pieces, meant to draw audiences to classical dance by way of the Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell, weren't up to the company's high standards. (To be fair: the National didn't dance Jean Grand-Maître's simplistic FATD; the Alberta Ballet did.)
So You Think You Can Dance Canada?
I have nothing against Nico and pals. But let's hope even a fraction of the millions of viewers buy tickets to a live dance show in 2009.