Toronto Dance Theatre brings eclectic, career-spanning program to Vancouver

Vena Cava. Guntar Kravis photo.

Toronto Dance Theatre is one of Canada’s foremost dance companies. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Vancouver’s DanceHouse is bringing a showcase of the company’s work to the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton St.) on Feb. 23 and 24 (details below).

The program draws on three decades to present five works by TDT Artistic Director and choreographer Christopher House. Here are brief descriptions of the pieces.

Vena Cava (1999)—Described by the Globe and Mail as “a high-energy composition… with speedy jumps and synchronized formations, set to a beautiful, dissonant piece of music by (American composer) Robert Moran.” The Toronto Star said that Vena Cava is among works that “represent the musically acute House at a phase of his choreographic career when he exulted in making dances that were essentially celebrations of the body in motion — fleet, lyrical and expansive.”

Fjeld (1990)—The company will present excerpts from this piece, which was originally a five-movement epic. “The piece’s slow, meditative grace makes a lovely counterpoint to the speed of Martingales. But Fjeld, which means a barren plateau in Norwegian, never gets too soft or sentimental,” according to Globe and Mail writer Martha Schabas in 2016.

Martingales (2016)—The Globe and Mail has described Martingales as “a work that plays with order and chaos in such a simple and satisfying way. Choreographically, there’s little more here than a game of catch, a lot of running, and some waltz-like formations, but the piece reverberates with energy and contingency as the dancers, in white shirts, black shorts and high-top sneakers, stake out their territory like a tough but elegant gang.” Reviewing a 2016 performance, Schabas wrote: “The sense of movement is so overwhelming that, at times, it’s hard to believe the dancers are limited to the confines of a stage and that we aren’t panning across a long, dark alley – an effect made by an exposed black wall and a high, dangling row of amber lights. This all happens to surging electronic music, played (and composed) by Thom Gill, who stands behind a laptop upstage.”

TDT dancers Pulga Muchochoma, Christianne Ullmark, and Garrett Siddall performing Martingales. Guntar Kravis photo.

Early Departures (1991)—”… an emotionally intense, image-laden male quartet set to marvellously rich, dissonant music by John Rea, it surely must qualify as a Canadian modern dance classic, albeit an unsettling one,” wrote Michael Crabb in the Toronto Star in 2014. “House choreographed it at the lethal height of the AIDS crisis. Its depictions of death, anger and tenderness struck a chord amid the particularly hard-hit arts community. It is a credit to the work’s more fundamental and universal emotional messages that it stands up just as well more than 20 years later.”

Thirteen (2017)—A new piece described in a press release as “a new work on an old theme.”

DanceHouse presents Toronto Dance Theatre (Toronto): House Mix on February 23 and 24, at 8 p.m. Come early for Speaking of Dance, a pre-show chat at 7:15 p.m. each night in the Vancouver Playhouse Upper Lobby with guest Christopher House.

Tickets start at $35 can be purchased at or by calling the DanceHouse Ticket Centre at 604.801.6225.

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