Christopher House is a name synonymous with Toronto Dance Theatre, having been the company’s artistic director for the past 26 years and part of TDT for more than four decades. House leaves TDT this August, and his final mainstage performance, House Mix, which opened at Fleck Dance Theatre on Wednesday night, was met with warm adulation for both director and company, who performed beautifully, truly united in the House style.
The opening work, Martingales (2014), borrows its name from probability theory, where no amount of past experience can predict the future. The dance takes the form of a game, opening with a random, dancey game of catch between a foursome. The dancers were dressed in cool shades and wore long socks, which made me see a school playground. The random element took form in various patterns and gaits, most pleasingly in pairs, with one running forward and the other back at a steady clip. Probability and chance are popular themes with choreographers (it’s not hard to see why), and Martingales adds an equable layer, with each dancer operating more or less interchangeably across the performance.
Continuing the equitable theme, duet Encarnado, commissioned originally for the Men Dancing Men’s Dances Festival at Simon Fraser University in 1993, was danced on opening night by two women, and on other nights by a pair of men. I wondered if I could see any obvious gendered choreography, which takes from the images and actions described in Homer’s The Iliad. I couldn’t detect any, perhaps aside from the dancers, company veterans Erin Poole and Christianne Ullmark, finding big poses mid-air instead of par terre. Decorated with attitudes and sweeping legs in second position, the duo could have been figures on Grecian pottery, in black leotards under terracotta light (lighting design by Roelof Peter Snippe), but there was enough feeling between them that it never approached a pastiche.
6 People Doing 6 Poses From 6 Photos to Music is Tedd Robinson’s “response work” to a piece by House from 1983, Glass Houses, inspired in part by Longo photographs. The title is quite literal, and the piece meandered through with performers intriguingly costumed by Jennifer Dallas in bright velour column dresses, men and women alike. Throughout the program, the company was near uniformly dressed. Echo Dark, from House’s 2005 work Echo’s Object, had a quintet of dancers sporting military-green skirts and combat boots. More about the pauses, the echo, of boots and bodies slamming the stage, Echo Dark required precision and an unwavering internal metronome.
It wasn’t until the finale, Vena Cava (1998), that we really saw the dancers in full stride. Set to Robert Moran’s propulsive Open Veins, Vena Cava creates a tableau of bounding stag leaps, incessant port de bras and herds of dancers travelling on steep diagonals. Two enigmatic solos punctuated the work, the first by the outstanding Ryan Kostyniuk, and midway by the equally mesmeric Megumi Kokuba, just two talents to watch in a company with a rich history and yet promising future.
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