At Dancemakers Centre
In Toronto on Wednesday
Kate Hilliard's Beside Me is an auspicious Toronto debut. The dancer shows a thoughtful approach to choreography that should stand her well for the future.
Hilliard's career was in Ottawa, with outings to Montreal and New York, before she came to Toronto to join Dancemakers in 2006. Beside Me is the first piece she has mounted in her new hometown.
She has certainly taken on a challenging subject in the abstract. Beside Me deals generally with issues of loss and memory. Hilliard is exploring what she calls the time in between the beginning and the end of something. She is concerned about our relationship with things that will pass out of our lives. She also mentions in her liner notes the repairing of the empty place after a loss.
Beside Me is a poignant duet for Hilliard and Montreal's Jean-François Légaré, and within the dynamic of a couple, she tries to show how things connect and how they pull away.
But while Hilliard takes a good stab at filling in nuance and subtext within the ebb and flow of the dance, she still has a way to go in unearthing subcutaneous layers of meaning.
Her movement is organic. The couple seems easy in their skins, and the choreography is more natural, as it were, than obvious technique. Simple jumps and turns, collapses and risings, arms swings and floor rolls are interpolated by eloquent pauses. She mixes in improvisation where both she and Légaré lift and carry each other.
The piece begins with Hilliard chasing after Légaré, frantically trying to catch him, which establishes her desperate attempt to hold on to something important. At another time, they play games, including one in which Hilliard tries to make Légaré move his leg by forcing it with her own. A happy memory, perhaps?
In these moments, Hilliard, as a dancesmith, creates a postmodern physicality out of which some strong images emerge. One metaphor involves white-paper birch trees. We first hear about these trees when Hilliard talks about them in relation to her parent's country house. As she describes their fragility, Légaré is in her arms, collapsing like dead weight as she struggles to hold him.
On a more cautionary side, there is almost too much repetition within the movement vocabulary. More often than not, Hilliard resorts to the same physical pattern in her transitions, such as a swoop of the arm to propel a turn and a jump. Nonetheless, the piece is quite gorgeous.
Where Hilliard shows a masterful approach to choreography is in the theatrical values.
Jeremy Mimnagh has given her an evocative videoscape, played on a screen, resembling the wooden slats of a frame house. As scenes of playing children flash by, for example, Hilliard stands silently with a smile of memory playing across her face. Mimnagh's impressionistic birch trees also add to the atmosphere, coming into view when there is tension between the couple.
Paul Auclair's lighting is ravishing, from the first image of the dancers' shadowy legs coming into view as they run and dodge, to the last flooding of the black-box space with a multitude of stars.
Olivier Girouard has provided a lovely, reflective soundscape with gentle, quiet chords of music.
With Beside Me, Hilliard is off to a strong start. This piece has polish, and it does speak volumes about relationships. For an early choreography, her attention to detail is quite astonishing.
Beside Me concludes tonight at Dancemakers Centre for Creation in Toronto.Report Typo/Error