Exploring the very essence of what makes us human, writes Paula Citron, the best dance of 2012 plumbed even as it soared.
BEST BALLET WITH A CONSCIENCE
Ghosts of Violence
Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada
Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto
Moncton-based Atlantic Ballet Theatre has been crisscrossing the country with this poignant work. Ghosts of Violence is choreographer Igor Dobrovolskiy's attempt to give a voice to women who suffer death at the hands of a significant other. The glory of the ballet are four duets that detail woman as victim, each with its own striking physical images and dangerous partnering. Props – a chair, a table – become symbols of oppression. The violent men are characterized through clenched fists, angular arms and stamping feet. The women are positioned in awkward and difficult lifts. With strong theatrical values, expressive choreography and committed dancers, Ghosts of Violence is art reaching out to the community, trying to make a difference.
BEST SITE-SPECIFIC WORK
Porch View Dances
The streets of Seaton Village, Toronto
Choreographer Karen Kaeja linked five choreographers with volunteer families in her downtown Toronto neighbourhood. These original works were then performed on porches and front lawns. Choreographer Maxine Heppner's female solo beautifully expressed the interior life of a woman. Michael Caldwell's hilarious boogie for a couple captured the joy of their relationship. Nova Bhattacharya's sculptured, rhythmic work for two women and four children evocatively depicted a flock of birds. Allen Kaeja's piece was a skilfully woven interplay between a mother, her broken foot, her crutches and her son. Karen Kaeja's choreography was a jubilant, loving romp for a mother and her three children. Porch View Dances was a poster child for site-specific dance done right.
BEST CONTEMPORARY DANCE THEATRE
Dark Matters (2010)
Feb. 28-Mar. 3
Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto
The Tempest Replica (2011)
Oct. 10 to 13
Agora de la Danse, Montreal
Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite and her company, Kidd Pivot, hit almost every major city in the country with two very different shows, Dark Matters and The Tempest Replica. Pite is a true genius of dance. She usually begins her choreographic exploration with an intellectual investigation, but then her imagination takes off to create works that embrace the essence of existence. Her choreography is also characterized by stunning multimedia effects and striking visual optics. Dark Matters (2009) was inspired by chaos theory; at its heart is the relationship between creation and destruction. In The Tempest Replica (2011), Pite presents eight characters from Shakespeare's play as if they were in a brilliantly conceived silent movie. Her focus is manipulation: emotional, intellectual and physical – but such simplistic descriptions don't begin to touch on the depths of Pite's choreographic inquiry.