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.
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)