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Fluid Movement Arts Festival: A giddy mixture of glitter and grassroots

Cedar Lake Contemporary ballet performs Didy Veldman?s piece showing the shifting emotional barometers of people.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet/Theatre Junction Grand

  • Prairie Dance Circuit/Dancers' Studio West
  • Fluid Movement Arts Festival
  • In Calgary on Friday and Saturday

In just five years, curator Nicole Mion has crafted the Fluid Movement Arts Festival into an important Calgary dance experience. Her mandate is a mix of international and Canadian talent, and the two performances that ended the festival are a perfect example of this fusion.

New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet is an international high flyer. Founded in 2003 by Wal-Mart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie, the 15-member company under current artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer, has become a media darling. It has the big bucks to attract the best dancers and choreographers in the world.

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In comparison, the minimally funded Prairie Dance Circuit is a collection of solos and duets. A choreographer is chosen from each of Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton to create a work. This quartet program is then performed in each of the four cities.

In short, the real worth of the Fluid Movement Arts Festival arises out of the judicious mix of the glitter with the grassroots.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

Mion scored a huge coup in presenting Cedar Lake's Canadian debut. In fact, she scooped Ottawa's National Arts Centre where the company will appear March 3 and 4.

Cedar Lake brought a knock-'em-dead repertoire with works by Norway's Jo Stromgren, Holland's Didy Veldman and Canada's own Crystal Pite. It is sophisticated choreography, performed by sensational dancers, with basic ballet technique being manipulated into a complex art form.

Stromgren's droll Sunday, Again uses the motif of sportswear, badminton rackets, birdies, and a net, plus the music of Bach to create both fugal patterns mirroring the music, as well as examining relationships on a day of leisure when couples have to spend more time together.

Veldman's clever frame of view, to a pastiche score, features three door frames. Her aim is to show the shifting emotional barometer of people both behind closed doors as well as outside of them. The dance is wonderfully humorous, ironic and melancholy all at the same time.

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Homegrown Pite's Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue is exquisite. Five dancers in shifting combinations depict relationships with images of rescue embedded in each, some more visible than others. Each duet is a little story on its own.

An evening of Cedar Lake sets the bar very high for contemporary balle.

Prairie Dance Circuit

The overall emphasis of this crop of PDC choreographers seems to be experimental. It is a program with an edge set to electronica scores for atmospheric soundscapes.

Edmonton's Raenna Waddell created a tightly controlled duet for herself and Vincent Forcier in the intriguing The Surrender Method. The work begins with three audience members shining flashlights on the couple before the stage lights come up.

This moody beginning sets Waddell's theme. Two creatures are inexorably drawn to each other while they fight to preserve their individuality. The choreography is rich in equal partnering.

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Map is Andrew Milne's delightful duet for Winnipeg dancers Johanna Riley and Sarah Roche. The human body itself is being surveyed and defined in this piece.

The dancers use masking tape to create performance areas on stage. They then begin a series of physical tasks to show how the mind and body are organized to produce movement. The result is an inside look at choreography being created in the moment.

Calgary's Jason Stroh has fashioned a tour-de-force solo for Hilary Maxwell in bang/crunch. The structure of the piece involves the dancer's harrowing struggle to take control of her own body.

The movement is one of triumphal explosive energy followed by moments of absolute defeat and exhaustion. Maxwell gives a superb performance.

Unfortunately, illness prevented the participation of Regina couple Joelle Arnusch and Robert Regala, so this Calgary performance featured a second Calgary choreographer.

Hilary Maxwell, already involved in the show as a dancer, stepped into the breach with her solo Thessalonike for dancer Jennifer Jaspar.

According to the Greek myth, Thessalonike commits suicide by throwing herself into the sea, but instead is transformed into an immortal sea creature. The choreographic journey begins with suitable anguish, travels through haunting memories, but ends with wonder.

I came away from this show thinking what a good idea PDC is. The choreography displays a growing craftsmanship that can only deepen. Prairie dance is on the rise.

The PDC Edmonton performance is Nov. 19 and 20, and Regina is Jan. 27 and 28.

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