Sunday, 17 November 2013

Q Dance presented by Royal Winnipeg Ballet at Gas Station Arts Centre

I sometimes wonder whether audiences truly realize the extreme caliber of creativity in this city. Peter Quanz' young company - Q Dance - is celebrating its first season to be presented by the RWB as part of the regular subscription. The performances this week included two of Quanz' well known pieces - Quantz by Quanz created for the Banff Arts Centre, and the ingenious Double Bounce, along with the World Premiere of his new story ballet, Murder Afoot.

Quantz by Quanz is a beautiful piece with quickly changing shapes. The challenging choreography is clearly influenced by George Balanchine in its many extensions and juxtaposed angles. The strength of the dancers shines in this piece, with Sofia Lee and Liang Xing dancing the lead roles, and a very strong ensemble supporting them. In this piece, an earlier one of Quanz, we see primarily a classical vocabulary, but the beginnings of the bending, asymetrical shapes which characterize his later work.

The second piece, danced by an enigmatic Beth Lamont with Stephan Possin, is centred around a playful idea - what if the tutu's edge were maleable, to be re-shaped every time the dancers come in contact? Lamont sparkes, and breezes through the choreography which showcases more of the Quanz obsession with unusual shapes. Possin however struggled with the challenging work - one can see quickly that the piece was choreographed on the dynamic and nearly superhuman Yosuke Mino.

The final piece, Murder Afoot, really allows Quanz sense of humour to sparkle, while using the most provocative movement vocabulary of the three pieces. Essentially created for 7 soloists, with only minimal ensemble dancing, the piece incorporated fantastic lighting and video design by Hugh Conacher, including a live feed from other parts of the theatre. Truly pushing its way into dance theatre, Quanz and Conacher's collective vision is unlike any other narrative ballet you've seen. Its sense of the theatrical was undeniable. I would have liked to see even more interplay - the moments where the video seemed to comment on the stage action had a fantastic Brechtian quality, and the piece would have been even more outstanding with this.

Overall this was a fantastic programme which not only showcased the incredible dancers, but the emerging genius that is Peter Quanz.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Best Brothers by Daniel McIvor - Prairie Theatre Exchange

Daniel McIvor brings us a very Canadian story with this tale of two brothers whose mother has died under curious circumstances (crushed by a large drag queen falling off a pride day float) and now the pair must deal with their loss together. The two could not be less alike, with the elder a straight laced hard working type-A architect, married with an ostentatiously expensive flat in Toronto (an entire scene plays out on the subject of his $250,000 kitchen. honestly...). The younger is a gregarious real estate agent, dressed regularly in purple through the show, and the reason for his mother's presence at the pride parade. The third "brother" is their mother's beloved dog - who truly had the mother's love, unlike her less furry sons. 

The piece was snappily directed by Bob Metcalfe with a keen attention to the darkly humourous subject matter, and well performed by the two performers. I would have liked to see more detailed physical work go into the scenes where the sons donned a hat and gloves and "took on" their mother's persona for a series of monologues. While these had potential to be sparkling, they came across as caricatures of the mother, which for me lost some of the impact. 

My overriding feeling, however, was that the play itself appeals to that part of us that wants to live that "ideal" life - the part that wants to write the perfect obituary for the slightly eccentric widowed mother, and whinge over such things as a $250,000 kitchen. But to be fair, I don't think that part of many of us even exists. 

We've struggled for years to create a truly Canadian theatre with our own voice separated from that of the British and American theatres, and I worry that this sort of piece sets us back.