Mississauga Living Arts Centre’s RBC Theatre was jam packed with past and present dancers and there was a notable buzz and excitement in the air for TOES FOR DANCE’s entrances and exits on Wednesday.
Looking around, many of the audience members already knew each other and were reuniting for this specific event. Before any dancers took the stage, the co-artistic directors of TOES FOR DANCE, David Norsworthy and Kristen Carcone, stepped onto the empty stage and introduced themselves to the audience. This introduction was warm and inviting, and their constant reappearances made the event a personal and educational experience. Their presence throughout the evening was meant to offer educational tools to decipher contemporary dance, a tactic this theatre student appreciated.
Norsworthy and Carcone identified the concept of the night: when you enter a theatre, you exit your daily life. They encouraged us to take in all aspects of the production and to make note of our reactions and feelings, while also also engaging with the work. The night was filled with several short contemporary dance pieces from larger successful works and smaller poetry sections that were created and performed by Callahan Connor.
Each excerpt was successfully engaging as the production elements were heavily implemented to affect our senses. Costuming, lighting, music and even dialogue were well thought out and staged, enhancing the overall environment of each excerpt. No one excerpt was alike as they all challenged traditional theatrical staging – some were performed in proscenium setting, while others cleverly interacted with the audience. The ensemble of dancers were talented, jaw dropping-ly precise and agile in each movement they undertook. The dancers made this event theatrical through their dedication to their individual performances, however, though each dancer was fantastic in their own right, when they were together as an ensemble they were even better.
Here are some notable highlights that stood out:
Rosie Herrera’s “Various Stages of Drowning” was an intimate piece between performers Scott McCabe and Maleek Washington. The combination of red lighting, Nina Simone and Ray Charles’ It’s Cold Outside and the sensuality between the male dancers was incredibly moving.
Heidi Strauss’ “Everyday Anthems” fuses different styles of music with the removal of layered clothing and showed much strength and energy in solo dancer’s Ana Maria Lucaciu’s performance.
Kristen Carcone and Callahan Connor’s “R.P.S.” and Riley Sims’ “Pretending to listen until I can talk about myself again” combined dialogue, poetry and audience participation through Rock, Paper, Scissors contests and physical interaction with the audience.
Apolonia Velasquez and Ofilio Sinbadinho’s “Qonfidence” closed the night with a bang through an incredibly precise performance by an ensemble of dancers.
And how can I forget crowd-pleaser Callahan Connor as his series of spoken word pieces “How You Doin?” and “I Am A River” brought the audience to energetic applause. While Connor was involved in group ensembles in “R.P.S.” and “WTF,” it is these pieces that showcased his talent. Donned in a Mario Kart t-shirt, he simply brought the house down as he skillfully rapped and beatboxed these interactive creations. He is a star solo performer who has mounds of comedic appeal, likability and skill that easily made him a big focus of the event.
I found this event to be inviting, inspiring and educating to anybody in the arts, not just the dance world. entrances and exits is an impressive compilation of poignant work that needs to continue the discussion about Toronto-based arts.
entrances and exits runs in Toronto at Betty Oliphant Theatre for the weekend of Nov. 14-15.