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Theatre & Performance How choreographer Christopher House found new ways to move post a hip replacement surgery

Order of Canada recipient Christopher House seen at the Toronto Dance Theatre, where he has served as artistic director since 1994.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

“I ride my bicycle everywhere," says Christopher House. “And if I’m not on my bike, I’m walking. I absolutely can not stand waiting for a bus.”

In his 25th year as the artistic director of the Toronto Dance Theatre and the recent recipient of both an Order of Canada and a hip replacement, the dancer-choreographer House is a year away from the city transit system’s senior discount program. And, yet, this month he’ll be onstage performing with a much younger man – the playwright Jordan Tannahill – in a remount of their 2016 duo piece Marienbad.

“It’s very physical,” House says. “There’s a lot of partnering. Some of it’s playful, and some of it’s aggressive.”

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House spoke to The Globe and Mail about his physical regimen, his love of movement and how invasive surgery on one of his major joints fascinated him, rather than inhibited him.

IN HIS WORDS

We first did Marienbad three years ago. The piece takes a lot of strength and a lot of stamina. A lot of the movement is very quick. The seats in the Winchester Street Theatre will be taken off the risers. So, we’ll essentially be running up and down those stairs, or falling and rolling and dragging each other up and down them. All of which, as you might imagine, puts a lot of stress on the body.

House says he been compensating in weird ways over a number of years because of arthritis in his hip.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

I’ve always taken great pleasure in being physically active. I’m not a beach-holiday guy. I’m a rent a bicycle and travel around kind of guy. I still take dance classes, and I work on my strength training in the gym. Specifically, I work with techniques that consider the body from different points of view. I love finding new ways to move and new ways to understand my body. You could describe it as problem solving.

Two years ago, I had a hip-replacement operation. I wasn’t having a lot of pain. I was lucky. But I was bored with dragging the bad leg around. So, I decided to get it taken care of, and then see what I’d be able to do afterward.

This sounds odd, but the whole experience was actually kind of fun. The surgery, the recovery and figuring out how to rebuild strength and how to rebuild muscle tone. And how to relearn movements – I’d been compensating in weird ways over a number of years because of the arthritis in my hip.

It’s amazing, if one is really interested, what you can accomplish with your body.

Christopher House and Jordan Tannahill perform Marienbad at Winchester Street Theatre, May 23 to June 1. Information at tdt.org.

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