Timecode Break – Toronto Dance Theatre – Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House

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Once again we decided to hope against hope that a dance piece could be made that successfully combined dance and video (recent failures including “Electric Counterpoint” and the wretched Shen Yun show in January) and hopped down to the Royal Opera House tonight to see the Toronto Dance Theatre’s “Timecode Break.” Thankfully, the video can be almost completely ignored, and is often merely an ambient backdrop or even a colored hanging. While the movement  on the video feed occasionally mirrored (deliberately out of synch or even backwards) the dancers’ movements, and at one point produced a long emotional sequence (do the dancers all really touch and kiss each other like the screen was showing? intriguing to say the least) that seemed well suited to the “dreamers” laying on the stage, it never really overshadowed it like so many video sequences do.

This is a good thing, because Toronto Dance Theater is an insanely energetic troupe that really deserves full audience attention. Jumping straight up from a squat, landing on one foot then falling backwards, doing a leaping spin into a crouched roll, they set high standards for punishing movement. I was really caught up by their energy, and it was also great to see such good dancers for once performing in “good” costumes – tank tops and cut-off workout pants that completely failed to distract from the bodies in motion on the stage and even enhanced them. The dance seemed to be varying a bit between group and solo work, but mostly stayed with the group, and while I found their movement interesting (and a fresh relief to some very silly modern dance), it did actually start to drag a bit, which is sad in a one hour piece. That said, I did enjoy the show and would recommend it as a good chance to see a very strong group of performers.

From the Royal Opera house website (as the link will disappear as soon as the show closes): When Toronto Dance Theatre opened the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa in 2006 with Timecode Break, the new work was immediately acclaimed as a stunning creation artistically and technically. So the company’s visit and this hour-long work to the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre is a must-see opportunity to experience what all the excitement has been about. Simultaneously choreographed for stage and video, Timecode Break uses cutting-edge technology to set live performers alongside screen projections of themselves. Duets between stage and screen, with simultaneous close-ups and shifts of time between live and filmed images – all these are integrated with razor sharp dancing, lightning fast unisons, fierce counterpoint and powerful solos. The stage image is completed by a haunting score for guitar, strings and percussion by Phil Strong and Steve Lucas’s extravagant lighting. The choreography is by Christopher House, Artistic Director of TDT since 1994 and one of the most intellectual, creative and celebrated contemporary choreographers at work in Canada. He worked closely with video artist Nico Stagias, whose camera work and editing is at the centre of this thought provoking work. As House says, ‘the dance exists in very precise partnership with the video. Nico and I put a tremendous amount of effort into directing the different visual elements so that the audience knows exactly where to look each moment of the work’. ‘A mesmerizing evocation of the moving body in space’, Timecode Break brings with it the combination of the 21st-century possibilities of dance and the sheer excitement that physical virtuosity can create. Unmissable.

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