By Stephanie Bomba
The music blasts from the stereo in the corner. The five dancers begin to move, slowly at first. As the tempo gets faster, so do they. Suddenly, four of them surround the dancer with the briefcase, and the tug-of-war begins. The crescendo builds and builds—until one of them almost stops grimacing in pain. You almost expect to hear someone yell, “Feel the burn!”
The number continues, but it doesn’t matter—their concentration is broken. Angie Canuel, 23, makes her way over to the stereo and rewinds the tape—they have just enough time to run through the big number once more.
This time, the dancers pour all of their energy into the performance. The studio is transformed into a stage, and the dancers make the complicated jazz number look easy.
When it’s over, 24-year-old Cathy Hergott changes in a flash and darts off to work. Rochelle Reekie and Christine SHarpe, both 22, drink bottled water in the corner.
Two of the dancers, Canuel and Robin Calvert—both of whom graduated from the Ryerson theatre dance program in 1999—take a moment to discuss the day’s rehearsal. As the producers and choreographers of In Brief, a contemporary dance project about breaking out of everyday routines, Canuel and Calvert have a vested interest in the show.
The idea for the project came to them during their final two years at Ryerson, while they were working on the theatre dance school’s production of the Choreographic Works. They asked recent Ryerson graduates Reekie and Sharpe, whom they knew from school, to be a part of the project. And Calvert asked Hergott, whom she met when they were dancing together in Toronto and Calgary with the Blue Collar Dance Company.
“We wanted to put on a show that our dads would get,” Calvert says of the 70-minute long program. “They maybe won’t get each individual dance, but the whole story is based around a briefcase so immediately that gives them something to connect with. And they follow that throughout the whole show.”
The briefcase—which is woven into the six pieces in the program—contains objects that relate to each piece representing the routine of everyday life.
In Brief is like musical theatre and is supposed to “run like a movie,” Canuel Says, adding that the movie screens in the background will show a credit and bloopers reel at the end of the performance.
The show’s parental warning—due to the so-called nudity at the start of the performance where the performers take the stage wearing nothing but briefs and using a briefcase to cover their chests—also gives In Brief a movie feel. The dancers have been told that because of the show’s venue—the Studio Theatre at the Harbourfront Centre—a warning is essential, even though they do shirts within the first 10 minutes of the program.
And that’s a compromise the dancers were willing to make—considering Canuel and Calvert almost didn’t get enough funding for the project to see the light of day. In November, the pair sought help from Ryerson in terms of getting reference letters to help them get funding but were turned down. And then they discovered that most funding programs weren’t applicable to them because they had been out of school for less than three years.
“Obviously we’re on our own, and we’re going to do it anyway,” Canuel says. “And we’re still going to prove that we can do it, and that anyone can do it.”
So in December, they gave showing of their works and received funding of their works and received funding through donations. And they got more money than they thought they would, which means the dancers are able to buy their costumes.
“We’re hoping people will respond to [the show] but we don’t know,” says Canuel, who started dancing at the age of 5. “That’s the chance we’re taking.”
“We don’t want to cater to the modern dance community, we don’t want to cater to the ‘jazz people,’” adds Calvert, who made the foray into dance when she was 9—after a stint as a gymnast. “Some people get so worried about understanding it, but you don’t need to.”
Both Canuel and Calvert say their biggest influence at Ryerson was their modern dance teacher, Karen Duplisea.
“She showed that she believed,” Canuel says. “When you’re a student, no matter where you are, if you have teachers that believe in you work harder.”
Duplisa continues to believe in her former students and that they will both have successful careers.
“For both Angie and Robin, I have no worries,” Duplisea says.
—In Brief runs March 30, 31 and April 1 in the Studio Theatre at the Harbourfront Centre. For more info, call 416. 973. 4000.