Toronto Dance Theatre

January 29, 2008

Toronto Dance Theatre Timecode Break

The Joyce Theater, NYC

January 29–February 3, 2008

Reviewed by Susan Yung

Christopher House plays with time and perception in Timecode Break. But this multipart, hour-long work seems primarily like a good vehicle for this cast of 12 to display their crisp technique and individual presences. It begins with the dancers spread across the stage, leaning forward at a barely perceptible speed, which increases as energy moves into their limbs. Set to Phil Strong’s hypnotic score, each scene shifts gears temporally and atmospherically. The subsequent scene features six men performing bold, acrobatic moves, followed by a more meditative passage for women in silhouette, and so on.

    A large, omnipresent screen hangs upstage, featuring Nico Stagias’ impressionist video washes or crisp portraits of the dancers. The video is in constant dialogue with the onstage action—mirroring it but featuring a different dancer, shadowing it, predicting it. Toward the end, the dancers are shown cracking up and making faces, becoming humorous thought bubbles behind the more serious live performance onstage.

    The choreography calls for clean, precise technique. Linnea Wong and Valerie Calam stood out in a duet that juxtaposed their different personalities and movement qualities, but allowed comparison of their highly articulated feet. House’s style uses geometric shapes and fundamental positions that provide powerful push-offs, or bases to build on. Triangular lunges of varying depths are repeating motifs, sometimes evoking yoga—the slow, constant input needed for control, epitomized in a difficult pass through a half split by Kamen Wang. Starting positions are commonly turned out first positions, or open fourth positions, which after several recurrences summon thoughts of Merce Cunningham.

    This performance raises issues that come with New York visits by top companies from mid-sized cities. Or perhaps the issues lie more with the New York audience, which can essentially stand in one place and watch the world dance by. The sheer volume of offerings diminishes the odds that any given company’s work will be groundbreaking or unique. So something like Timecode Break (from 2006), which garnered several awards for excellence from Canada, can feel if not like a repeat of something, then faintly familiar. Its greatest distinguishing factor is its skilled, charismatic performers, who radiate genuine enthusiasm.


(Photo by Aaron McKenzie Fraser)