By Katie Schneider
“Welcome to my brain…”
A computer-like male voice dominates the theatre as the dancers step onto the stage. “Run upstage…” “Spread out…” “Reverse!” the strange voice calls out as the dancers comically follow the instructions.
Dance students became the choreographers for Choreographic Works, the Ryerson dance program’s annual spring performance, which runs until Mar. 20. The show blends modern dancing with ballet, lyrical, and jazz influences.
The performances have a unique style brought by the dancers and choreographers. Most dance students come up with their ideas during the winter holidays and audition their pieces to the faculty in January.
There are the slower modern pieces like trio “Hush,” in which song lyrics, prove an understatement to the flowing, extending movements performed by the dancers. Faster-faced pieces like “Manteca” combines jazz and swing dancing into fun characterized routines. “L’ecole des Poisons” resembles a disco-like dancing school of fish with nine dancers grooving together in unique formations.
There are dramatic performances like “With Open Eyes,” which sets an intense mood with black makeup, teased hair, and chilling heartbeat rhythm music. Also featured are the humorous performances like “The ‘Odd’ition” with the brain voiceover commanding the animated dancers around the stage. “Roll to the floor,” “Hit a brick wall” and requests for the robotic movements are also ordered by the voice.
Third-year dance student Clinton Draper performs in “To be looked at-ness,” his powerful solo and “The ‘Odd-ition” among several other pieces.
“They are all fun, but for different reasons,” he said. .”The brain piece is a lot of fun because it’s kind of [comical and] you get to be a little bit silly. A lot of modern dance… gets pretty heavy and you don’t get the opportunity to be silly.” He said dancing a solo routine is a good opportunity to express himself and send a message.
Draper said most pieces are modern dance because Ryerson dancers will likely go on to contemporary dance work or musical theatre work after graduation, rather than a classical ballet job.
He said the dancers rehearse about six to seven hours a week, but fourth-year technical theatre student Jessica Singer, marketing and publicity manager for the show, said it’s an ongoing rehearsal. For her, the emotion felt while watching the show is also felt while working on it, which is why she’s participated in it for three years.
“That’s what’s great about live theatre,” she said. “You never see the same show twice.” The artistic use of actors with speaking roles in the pieces adds to the dance performances. “Girl at the Automat” has a dancer dictating a contemporary-style partnering duet. “Is there a Doctor in the House?” has funny dancer-actor storytellers.
Fourth-year student Sarah Kallio performs in “Speed,” another actor-spoken duet, and other dances including her beautiful solo “Do you hear my silence…”
To her, the variety of Choreographic Works makes it unique. She says dancers showcase their individualism and creativity with their choreography. Kallio also said the technical theatre program is very involved with this production and she enjoys the feedback from the 25 technical students who participated.
Kallio loves the pieces that she performs with her close friend because they connect more through their dancing. “Especially if you’re doing your own choreography,” she said. “It’s so close to your heart.”
Kallio said modern dance is more emotional and expressive but said students come into the Ryerson program with little modern dance training. And that’s hard to believe from an audience perspective.
It’s also unbelievable that movements executed so perfectly with varying dance and musical styles aren’t an act of professional choreographers. Instead, they are the work of these talented young dancers. It’s not just the chilly theatre that will give you the shivers. You might just need to see for yourself, so listen to the brain and, “Come forward.”