Vancouver International Dance Festival Presents Three Weeks of International and Local Performances (with reviews)

Goh Ballet: Photo of Vlademir Pereira submitted by Goh Ballet

“Dance as a primal human instinct transcends language, cultural norms, and international borders. It has the potential to communicate any aspect of the human experience,” says Barbara Bourget, co-producer of Vancouver International Dance Festival (VIDF).

This ability of dance to express universal emotions and experiences will be celebrated for three glorious weeks from March 1 to March 24, 2018 in the performances, activities, and workshops of VIDF.

In their 18th edition, the VIDF is continuing their long standing traditional of searching both locally and globally for exemplary talent to showcase in Vancouver in a month long exultation of the richness and diversity of dance.

The program this year is expansive and exciting, featuring 36 performances, 17 of which are free. Venues include the Vancouver Playhouse, Roundhouse Performance Centre, Scotiabank Dance Centre, and KW Production Studio. Of particular note is New York’s Shen Wei Dance Arts who will present the Western premiere of Folding and Rite of Spring (March 2 & 3), the former is a dreamscape set to Tibetan Buddhist chanting interwoven with music by John Tavener, while the latter is inspired by a 4-hand version of the Stravinksy score, in which dancers trace the music on stage with their physicality.

Shen Wei Dance Arts Photo by Christopher Duggan

Other international program highlights include Ferenc Fehér from Hungary performing IMAGO (March 20-21) that, in a raw and primal dance, poses the question of what constitutes feeling and masculinity; Mexico’s Compañía de Danza Experimental de Lola Lince performing the Canadian premiere of Estudios y Fragmentos Sobre el Sueño (Studies and Fragments on Dreams), a dream-like look at and playing with various seeming binaries, such as night and day, and northern and southern hemispheres (March 23-24); and New York’s White Wave Dance Company presenting iyouuswe (March 15-17), which draws upon Paul Auster’s novel In the Country of Last Things and features dancer Isabelle Poirier wandering in survivor-mode as both she and the environment around her degrade to the point of obscurity.

White Wave Dance Company Photo by Steven Trumon Gray

Local performances include pataSola dance mounting RIFT (March 22-24), which explores gender violence; The Biting School performing Disagreeable Tales (March 22-24) that examines violence and cruelty and ways of combating them; Goh Ballet offering a diverse night of dance covering selections from Paquita, Persuit, Pas de Trois from Swan Lake, Four Little Swans from Swan Lake, Winter from The Four Seasons, and The Bureau (March 15-17); and Dancers Dancing presenting Confabulation (March 8-10) that looks at memory and its uncertainty.

The Biting School: Photo by Sepehr Samimi

The shows that are FREE (some requiring just a $3 membership) include: the Harbour Dance Centre Intensive Training Program dancers show (March 4, 11, 18); the Dancers Dancing show; the Goh Ballet performance; the Ferenc Fehér performance; and The Biting School show.

Harbour Dance ITP: Photo by Ernest Von Rosen

Throughout the three weeks, there wil also be a variety of master classes and workshops, run by artists such as Kokoro Dance and Shen Wei Dance Arts.

It all promises to be a wondrous immersion in both global and local dance expression in all its connectivity, joy, ephemerality, and piercing clarity.

Further program information and tickets can be found on-line.

Review of Shen Wei Dance Arts’ Performance

The two pieces, Rite of Spring and Folding, presented at the Vancouver Playhouse are worlds apart in many ways in tempo and aesthetic, yet share a common attention and talent for timing, movement, and abstract invocations of visuality. To have both performed in Vancouver by such a world renowned company was, indeed a treat.

Rite of Spring is set to the Stravinsky score and danced on a grey grid-like stage with performers in muted, stark costuming. It opens with precise painstaking movements before blossoming and even rioting in contortions and gestures, as the music unfolds and shifts. The dancers embody the rhythms and notes of the music, each flick of the hand and turning of the head minutely and kinetically synchronized with the score. In short, they transform into the music itself with no space between.

The floor, with its grid overlay, offers positionality for the dancers, a way of mapping out the air they both occupy and vacate. The piece strikes notes of isolation, but also collectivity and simultaneity. Most especially, the joy of physical movement, sometimes in unison and often in conflict, is so palpable, mimicking that shift from the stasis of winter to the transformation into the warming of the next season.

The second piece, Folding, is a display of quiet, deliberate intensity set to an East/West combination of Tibetan Buddhist Mahakala chants and the music of John Tavener. Dancers are costumed as strangely arresting ghost/alien-like beings, garbed in striking red and black fabrics. As they move across the stage, the dancers feel like calligraphy brushes tracing ink across a firstly blank and then increasingly layered canvas. The performance has a magnetism, a pull based on haunting visuality. The artists move at certain points torturously across the stage, in aching and dream-like tableaus. The result lingers in the mind even as the curtain drops.

Review of White Wave Young Soon Kim Dance Company’s iyouuswe

The audience at White Wave’s performance of iyouuswe were silent throughout the course of the 65-minute continuous performance. The sheer visceral quality of the dancers moving across the stage was strangely riveting, almost as if life had been intensified and reduced to this company of dancers. Their talent and athleticism were obvious; what was particularly compelling was the intimacy and affecting nature of the choreography. Dancers alternated between connection and isolation, sometimes dancing together in a flurry of timed movements, and at other times, away from the group in their own solitary physical explorations. Particularly poignant and intense was the paired work, the interplay of body dialogue and the push and pull of togetherness and contact.

Besides their bodies, white chairs served as their only props, showing both the limits and the possibilities of connecting and manipulating things beyond the self. Throughout the performance, the audience was taken along the journey as an immersed participant, their hearts also beating and slowing down as movement turned into the graceful and complex artistry of “we.”

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