Best of the Fest: Dancing on the Edge turns 30, remains cutting edge

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Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance | Firehall Arts Centre and various venues | July 5 – 14, 2018

As the longest-running contemporary dance festival in Canada, Dancing on the Edge (DOTE) has spent the last three decades presenting an array of innovative and daring contemporary dance works from local, national, and international dance artists. This milestone year was no exception, and here is the best of this year’s fest.     

Best tribute to the festival

May of the dancers seemed to be reflecting on the past and on their own involvement in the festival, and Amber Funk Barton used this as the starting point to create her short solo, For You, For Me. The piece was inspired by and made reference to past festivals, other artists she has met along the way, and the Firehall stage.

Best site-specific work 

The festival has presented works on beaches, in parks, in trees, off the side of buildings, and on the street. Small Stage’s Granville Island performances were a hit, but this year’s most innovative site-specific work was Paras Terezakis’ work-in-progress, Against, at the Brooks Corning furniture showroom. The interdisciplinary piece began in the glass-walled boardroom where Elissa Hanson and Arash Khakpour faced off in a figurative tug of war laced with sexual tension. The room was covered in plastic — as if Dexter had prepared for his next kill — and the strawberries and blueberries on the table were soon bleeding red and blue as Hanson and Khakpour rolled over them. From there they joined Renée Sigouin and the action moved from workspaces to the warehouse and finally to the loading bay.

Best moment of nostalgia

During the 30th anniversary party on the first evening of the festival, Harvey Miller and Cornelius Fisher Credo performed an excerpt from their duet, Street of Dreams, which closed the first DOTE festival.

Best entertainment

Liz Kinoshita’s VOLCANO was a highlight of the festival. Fusing musical theatre, tap dance, and vocal harmonies, the work was innovative and upbeat. Kinoshita was inspired by the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption and the piece makes reference to the travel delays that followed the incident while questioning the way we travel and rush through life. At one point, the foursome made their way into the seats, each serenading a different audience member before they repeatedly declared, “I think it’s time we put on our shoes again so we can get on with the show” while cycling through various musical genres. The piece was genius, and received a lot of laughs.     

Best international work

Dab Dance Project from South Korea presented Bomberman, an innovative work for three dancers that was performed inside a plastic-walled enclosure that seemed to quarantine the dancers from a possibly polluted outside world. The way the dancers robotically manoeuvered into yoga poses and configurations resembling odd creatures was impressive. Their innovative use of light ad fog also added to the futuristic mystery. By the end, fog obscured them from view and they broke through the plastic, desperate to escape. 

Best local choreography

Jennifer Mascall, who presented work at the very first DOTE, has developed OW into a full length piece after it was shown as a work-in-progress at last year’s festival. It’s a fun exploration of the way that sound works together with movement to form meaning. Having full conversations with only a few words such as “how,” “oh,” “what,” and “pop,” the fun the dancers had on stage was infectious.

Best work-in-progress

Company 605’s Loop, Lull (working title) played with improvisation, looping beats, and repetition. The casual, rehearsal feel had the dancers passing water bottles to each other, snacking on nuts, and taking breaks to sit on a bench. They took turns taking centre stage and also performed as an ensemble, discussing their process as they went. It will be interesting to see how the piece evolves into a full-length piece. 

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