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Push Festival – Dances for a Small Stage

Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg

For a dance-illiterate like myself, a variety-show presentation in a casual venue is the ideal way to confront that lofty beast known as Contemporary Dance. By gathering a number of local performers and plunking them down, plop!,  into the middle of Commercial Drive – at a Legion, no less – Dances for a Small Stage makes dance un-scary.

This year’s show, specifically last night’s (there is a performance tonight, Thurs Jan 27 and tomorrow, Fri Jan 28), features six separate pieces. Unlike past years, the individual works are linked together by a running skit. With Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg in period (Edwardian or maybe Victorian) dress and speaking archly, it’s a humorously gothic (think Edward Gorey) through-line that set us up for pieces like Kim Tuson’s burlesque “AWD-REY” and Delia Brett‘s metamorphic “Being Imaginary” that didn’t take themselves too seriously. The skit also demonstrated that Friedenberg is not only a creative dancer – her piece “Highgate/Westgate” was a highlight of the show – but also a terrifically talented comic actress.

Music was crucial to at least two of the performances. In ‘from The Spinster’s Almanac’, Susie Burpee performed a dance/pantomime to the perfectly beautiful song “Bird as Prophet” by Winnipeg singer/songwriter Christine Fellows (see video below). “Itchy Knee” featured David Raymond and TIffany Tregarthen of Out Innerspace Theatre in a clever, funny dance/pantomime to a rhythmic vocal work by Japanese composer Asa Chang that sounds like a cut-up language lesson. Theirs was perhaps the best piece of the night – “best”, in this case, meaning most accessible for those of us afflicted with contemporary-danceaphobia.

David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen of Out Innerspace

David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen of Out Innerspace

David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen of Out Innerspace

David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen of Out Innerspace

Susie Burpee

Dances for a Small Stage runs for two more nights at the Legion on the Drive (2205 Commercial Drive at East 6th Ave). Tickets ($20) on sale at the door.

Video – Christine Fellows, “Bird as Prophet” (live)

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