Dates 13 July 2007 Venue Centre A, 2 Hastings Street Reviewer Ross Michael Pink

Performers Alvin Erasga Tolentino, Chengxin Wei, Billy Marchenski & Deanna Peters

One of the anticipated works of the Dancing on the Edge Dance Festival was BODYGlass, a highly interpretive, modern and multi dimensional work by well known Vancouver dancer and choreographer Alvin Erasga Tolentino.

For those leaning toward the more classical ballet culture, the conclusions would be steep and a challenge to typical ballet parameters. For the modern dance aficionado, BODYGlass is a banquet of movement, props and invention that is provocative and at times absorbing.

As a performer and choreographer, Alvin Erasga Tolentino has brought modern dance works to audiences in Europe, Canada and Asia. In 2001, he founded Co. Erasga.

BODYGlass, performed in the round, brings together several elements including narration, lights, props (most prominently glass circular disks) clothing, windows, nudity, drumming and the resonant sounds of the cymbal.

Erasga describes his work in the following terms, “Body and Glass uniquely reflects a sense of our history. The transparent glass, solid /liquid state, yet fragile characterizes the spiritual, fluidity, strength and vulnerable state of the human form.”

The work is a series of movements and interactions by the four main dancers, Erasga, Chengxin Wei, a multitalented Ballet BC dancer and emerging choreographer, Billy Marchenski, who has many modern dance works in his repertoire and Deanna Peters, who has danced with Kokoro Dance Company and Karen Jamieson Dance. At times the work takes on the semblance of a Kokoro work with primal dance steps and an Asian ambiance.

The dancers interacted well, with strong, confident dance steps and finely tuned facial expression, particularly by Chengxin Wei and Alvin Erasga.

Glass features prominently in the work. Many times the dancers are moving on the floor, crouched or lying down, while rolling the glass orbs to create movement, flow and a unique acoustic effect.

At the end of the piece, dancer Peter Chin, dressed in the attire of a monk, slowly moves onto the stage and interacts fluidly with the dancers. His role represents a spiritual dimension.

At the end of his brief performance, Chin slowly departs the stage and walks out the door, onto the street, bathed in light while looking at the dancers and stage through the large bay window. It was an absorbing moment in the piece.

Chin has an active dance background, having worked with Chan Hon Goh of The National Ballet of Canada and is the recipient of a Gemini Award for best performance in a performing arts program.

One shortcoming to the piece is the fragmented nature of the work. At times there are too many visual and dance steps at once, thus undermining the overall focus.

A section of narration at the mid point of the performance with references to chocolate seemed totally out of place and rather silly. It detracted from the work and flow that had been mounting.

Overall, BODYGlass is an ambitious piece. The choreography is detailed and highly expressive. The dancing was energetic and lively, with many moments of beautiful motion which reflect the essence of dance.

© 2007 Ross Michael Pink


Moving Dragon, Lumina II

Dates 5 & 8 July 2007 Venue Firehall Arts Centre Reviewer Ross Michael Pink

Performer Chengxin Wei

Ballet dancer and choreographer Chengxin Wei is an exciting dancer to watch on two levels.

First, his artistry, movement and technical mastery are superb. Second, as a performer, coming from a highly structured dance regiment in China, Wei is blossoming as a choreographer and reinventing his own dance boundaries to incorporate greater freedom.

Wei was born and raised in Dalian, China. In 1997, he graduated from the famed Beijing Dance Academy where he studied classical dance for eleven years.

Before moving to Vancouver, Wei was a principal dancer with Guangdong Provincial Dance Theatre. He has been with Ballet BC for five years. As a company member with Ballet BC, Wei brings technical mastery and flowing, beautiful movement to every role.

His transition in recent years to choreography is a fascinating process to watch. As both choreographer and performer, Wei is now embracing more freedom, experimentation and imagination in his dance work. The results are impressive.

Moving Dragon is a dance company that Wei founded with Jessica Jone. The company strives to promote cross cultural exploration, fusing Chinese and Western dance. Wei notes that the body itself can become a bridge between East and West.

The piece Lumina II starts with a spotlight and split second image of Wei rushing through the light. It immediately arouses attention and interest. What follows are a series of rapid hand and foot movements, like high speed luminous fluttering butterflies, appearing briefly in the spotlight.

There follows a short dance routine without music, always a courageous effort for a dancer. Wei carries it off with skill and elegant form.

An appropriate subtitle to the work would be dancing through the light since Wei uses a creative, original and effective approach by dancing through the light, not just in the light.

Lumina II was an artistic, choreographic and performance success. It marks another bright step forward in the impressive artistic path of Chengxin Wei.

© 2007 Ross Michael Pink


MOVE: the company

Dates 5 & 8 July 2007 Venue Firehall Arts Centre Reviewer Ross Michael Pink

Performer Josh Beamish

The Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance, now in its second decade, is an important Vancouver showcase for experimental and modern dance.

New ideas, new forms of dance, are often found on the periphery of the dance world where constraint and conservatism are not so evident. Such is the case with MOVE: the company, led by choreographer and artistic director Josh Beamish.

Beamish was born in Edmonton and raised in Kelowna. Despite the limitations of these dance environments, Beamish carried forth with his passion to invent and express modern movement through dance.

Beamish has worked with the Judith Marcuse Dance company, the Vancouver International Dance Festival and a variety of modern dance artists.

Founded in 2005, MOVE: the company is focused on contemporary jazz dance. Beamish also likes to experiment with other art forms such as video, narrative and theatre.

The program presentation featured six dancers in an energetic, fast paced and frenetic series of dance steps. Music by Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and DJ Shadow provided the right acoustical balance and beat.

Performers included Josh Beamish, Stephen Agisilaou, Jessica Fletcher, Cristina Graziano, Joe Tremblay, Cristina Heinrich. As an ensemble, they moved well and projected the energy of the piece with great effect.

Festivals such as this are vital pillars of the dance world and its ongoing creativity.
The sell out crowd in attendance is testament to this fact.

© 2007 Ross Michael Pink


Tara Cheyenne Performance
Nick & Juanita – Livin’ in my Dreams

Dates 8 & 9 July 2007 Venue Firehall Arts Centre Reviewer John Jane

Performer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg

Nick & Juanita – Livin’ in my Dreams is the latest dance work from choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and her long-time partner Sophie Yendole. There is an obvious similarity with their previous collaboration, bANGER, in so much that Friedenberg once again shows her penchant for zany androgynous comedy.

When she bounds onto the Firehall Arts Centre stage to a blaring saxophone appearing as a cartoonish master of ceremonies, wearing a velvet red jacket and red/white check polyester pants, Ms Friedenberg looks to have lost her way to the Fringe Festival. When she picks up a microphone and immediately starts interacting with the audience, we certainly get the sense that this is going to be less of a dance performance than stand-up comedy.

Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg is “Nick” – the first of the eponymous archetypes in her one woman - dual character show. Nick is a garish, indecorous individual with few, if any redeeming qualities, but the former Calgarian gives him a madcap “Jim Carrey” persona. In one brilliant choreographic sequence, Friedenberg aptly creates a series of gestures and body postures that simulates a marionette with slightly twisted strings.

The second act belongs to Juanita; who is just as outrageous as Nick, but gets rather more sympathetic treatment from her creators. Friedenberg enters the stage barefoot from the door leading to the foyer, dressed in a salmon pink cocktail dress. As a whimsical Juanita, she is constantly changing the pace of her performance from comically poignant to intensely expressive.

This highly talented and multi-faceted performer even displays her unique dance lexicon in an over-the-top disco-driven sequence to Debbie Harry’s “Call Me,” culminating in precarious gamboling around the floor.

This kind of choreography is rarely seen on modern dance stages. But while many dance companies struggle to find audiences; Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg’s eclectic style will surely appeal to a broad demographic.

© 2007 John Jane

Close Encounters, CorpoREAL

Dates 12 & 14 July 2007 Venue Firehall Arts Centre Reviewer Susan Peake

Performers Mara Branscombe, Jennifer McLeish-Lewis, Katy Harris-McLeod & Pierre-Paul Savoie

As the title indicates, Edge Four is the fourth in a series of contemporary interpretive dance performances that are included in the annual Dancing on the Edge Festival. Edge Four was held at the Firehall Arts Centre and this venue is delightful; perhaps for some, one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets. And it is no surprise that the Dancing on the Edge Society has secured it as one of the venues for their annual festival.

The evening’s entertainment began with The Tomorrow Collective; made up of individual performances by three accomplished female dancers. As well as creating their own unique solos, each performer was to include a series of 10 rules into their repertoire that were to act as a map for the creative process. The audience was given a handout that listed the 10 rules and was asked to look for the rules as they watched the solos.

Jennifer McLeish-Lewis led the collective and delivered a moving performance that was meant to reflect her childhood feelings towards her father. The fluidity of her movements as she propelled herself from one part of the stage to the other was both fascinating and intense.

Katy Harris-McLeod was next and she too gave a strong performance – strong also in her body movements, with a combination of a theatrical and gymnastic edginess.

The last dancer in The Tomorrow Collective was Mara Branscombe who evoked sensuality in her creative routine. Again, an intense performance and one that was meant to move the audience with its theatrical overtures.

All three solos were enhanced by the use of a full screen at the back of the stage that showed film footage contributing to each performer’s routine. And for Mara’s performance the film on the screen matched the moves on the live stage. This use of visual aides was most effective and served to enrich the performer’s message. Also, it is no surprise that both Mara and Jennifer are Yoga instructors as this was evident in their body movements.

The second half of the evening’s entertainment was performed by Pierre-Paul Savoie (PPS Dance) – a multi-facetted and award-winning contemporary dancer who is known for his use of dance, music, theatre and visual arts to create his message. He gave a lengthy and deeply moving performance that depicted the relationship between memory and fact. It started with what could be interpreted as an impression of a damaged rag-doll and moved through stages of painful emotion that eventually resulted in a freeing rebirth.

As one who has not followed contemporary dance for some time, I was struck by the way in which this art form has evolved – the realization that the performers spent more time in various horizontal positions as they moved across the stage, and less time actually dancing on their feet. Also the use of music, film and props integrated to bring a much more theatrical element to dance. And finally, the use of sound other than music was pervasive in the performances. In Edge Four, the mood was definitely dark, intense and at times disturbing and the often discordant accompaniment assisted in producing this effect.

Edge Four was definitely worthwhile – if only to bring me up to speed on what is in fact contemporary dance. Time to get current!! I will likely still lean towards more traditional dance – but hey, that’ just me.

© 2007 Susan Peake


Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie

Dates 6 & 7 July 2007 Venue Vancouver Playhouse Reviewer Ed Farolan

Performers Laurence Lemiuex, Michael Sean Marye, Peter Trosztmer & Anik Bissonnette

Festival Director Donna Spencer welcomed everyone at the start, and then introduced dance critic Max Wyman who gave a lengthy introduction to the Kudelka Project, referring to Canada's two solitudes and using it as a parallel to the two solitudes of dance: modern and classical.

Then he went on to praise Choreographer Kudelka to high heavens for his work. The show started shortly after with Laurence Lemiuex, co-founder of the company, dancing to the tune of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's Passacaglia Sonata played by violinist Mark Ferris. She danced around him, but I was not impressed by the choreography.

I got the impression that Lemiuex was playing a mentally and physically disabled person, as she would stare at the audience, and then do dance steps that were ungraceful and awkward. Not very impressionable.Then the next piece Soudain, l'hiver dernier followed. There were two male dancers, Michael Sean Marye and Peter Trosztmer, dancing to Jesus blood never failed me by composer Gavin Bryars.

If I hadn't read the programme, I wouldn't have understood the singer singing this song because he was mumbling the words and he sounded like a toothless old man singing and repeating the refrain over and over; It was getting boring and monotonous. From watching the two dancers plus the word "Jesus" in the song, I immediately got the impression that this was a Christian theme.

In fact, this dance was commissioned by Butler University, and I assume they wanted Kudelka to inject something Christian into the programme. However, the dancers would have been better off as acrobats and comedians than dancers, as they pranced around and played games, like Lawrence and Hardy. A question that popped up in my mind was: "Were they supposed to act like children?"

The next dance, Limpido Amor, choreographed by Jose Navas was good. I liked Anik Bissonnette as she appeared in her ballet costume and danced like a true ballerina. Her solo was commissioned by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and performed a month ago in honour of her farewell gala tribute.

After the intermission, the main event, Fifteen Hetrosexual Duets, an early work of Kudelka (1991), a 30-minute piece, with pairs alternating, but keeping thecontinuity of dance to Beethoven's Sonata No. 9 in A, Opus 47 Kreutzer ... now this was good. There was no playing around here: eleven dancers, two at a time, and heterosexually, as the title implied, danced with grace, with the classicism, and yet with that original creativity that gives it the Kudelka imprint. I particularly liked the flowing movements of Laurence Lemieux and Anik Bissonnette. Now this was beautiful, and I left the theatre impressed with Kudelka and the performers of the Compagnie.

© 2007 Ed Farolan