Dancing in the key of life in Kaeja d’Dance’s joyful, moving, dynamic Porch View Dances 2019

PORCH 2: Lifesongs (Her Mixtape’s a Masterpiece), choreographed by Shannon Litzenberger. Kirsten Boer, Marion Oliver, Lori Pacan, Evelyn Sham and Myriam Zitouni. Photo by Cate McKim.

 

Kaeja d’Dance opened its 8th annual Porch View Dances, presented in and around Seaton Village in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto (starting at 92 London St.) last night. Part walking history tour, part magical outdoor dance performance, part storytelling, the evening’s festivities feature amateur and professional dancers. The audience is shepherded by the affable top hat-wearing host and tour guide, Maurycy, who takes us through the neighbourhood to the various porch and vignette venues—all winding up at Vermont Square Park, where everyone is invited to dance. It is a joyful, moving and dynamic evening of movement and expression.

PORCH 1: Sipikiskisiwin (“Remembering Well”), choreographed by Aria Evans and created with/performed by Jim Adams. For the third year in a row, Jim and Owen Adams, an Indigenous father and son, have embarked on a PVD series of what it means to be an Indigenous family in the city. This year, they will be creating a piece for Jim to perform about dreams, memory and loss.

Incorporating movement and ritual, a moving piece of longing, connection and remembrance.

PORCH 2: Lifesongs (Her Mixtape’s a Masterpiece), choreographed by Shannon Litzenberger; created with/performed by Kirsten Boer, Marion Oliver, Lori Pacan, Evelyn Sham and Myriam Zitouni. A unique group of friends and strangers unite in their shared love of dance, art and community. They are looking forward to strengthening existing friendships and making new ones.

Kindred spirits sharing life, love and music in a celebratory porch party atmosphere.

PORCH 3: Comme un Enfant (“Like a Child”), choreographed by Karen and Allen Kaeja; created with/performed by Ilana and Ahava Bereskin. A mother/daughter duo are looking forward to a magical bonding experience and sharing their dance with the community; while their story is unique, the themes are universal and will resonate with all.

Tender and playful, a mother and daughter delight in each other, dancing, playing and exuding pure joy.

POP-UP VIGNETTES: Dearest Love (Parts 1-3) world premiere, choreographed by Mateo Galindo Torres; and performed by professional dancers Taylor Bojanowski and Mio Sakamoto.

An unusual and delightful love story emerges between a woman and a dress on a dress form, as we encounter this magical tale in three parts, in between porch dances.

Last night’s event also included the very cool unveiling of the Porch View Dances Lane street sign (across the street from the meeting place at 92 London Street).

It’s a lovely way to spend an evening, walking through a beautiful, historic neighbourhood and witnessing the joy, poignancy and creativity of expression in movement and dance.

Porch View Dances continues until July 21, with performances Thurs-Sat at 7:00 pm and Sunday at 1:00 pm. Tickets are Pay-What-You-Want.

Department of corrections: One of the dancers in Dearest Love was previously incorrectly identified as Caryn Chappell. It’s actually Taylor Bojanowski; this has been corrected.

Here are some pix I took at last night’s opening.

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Still here

cowbell lane signHey all –

It’s been a while since I posted – I was grounded by a nasty cold last week, so had to reschedule seeing Native Earth Performing Arts’ production of Huff to this week and missed Kaeja d’Dance’s lifeDUETs.

For the remainder of the year, I’ll be scaling back on arts events and bloggage, as I’m starting another copywriting class this week and focusing on some creative work of my own, including new stand-up material (especially for my set for the Project HOTS fundraiser at the Horseshoe Tavern on Nov 22) and some visual arts projects.

As always, please keep in touch regarding upcoming gigs/events/shows – and thanks for reading!

With thanks to John Oughton for the Cowbell Ln pic (this is an actual street sign from the Yonge/Eglinton area in Toronto).

A yin & yang of fluidity, strength, beauty & connection – Kaeja d’Dance’s 25th Anniversary Concert

allen and karen kaeja photo by aria evans
Allen & Karen Kaeja of Kaeja d’Dance – photo by Aria Evans

“25 years feels like a masterpiece. One that has flaws, failures, good fortune and gratitude, colour splattered in unrecognizable textures that weave together an incredible human experience!” – Karen Kaeja

“25 years is encompassing growth, struggle, intimacy and it’s terrifying. It’s tenderness, and support – with passion and imagination!” – Allen Kaeja

Kaeja d’Dance premiered its double bill 25th Anniversary Concert last night, running until Saturday, March 28 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre.

Kaeja d’Dance co-founders/choreographers/husband and wife team Karen and Allen Kaeja each choreographed a piece (and dance in each other’s pieces) for this double bill premiere celebration performance, tackling the “notions of fate, coincidence and choice.” The dance company includes Michael Caldwell, Zhenya Cerneacov, Ana Groppler, Allen Kaeja, Karen Kaeja, Merideth Plumb and Mateo Galindo Torres.

.0 (by Allen Kaeja, with Caldwell, Cerneacov, Groppler, Karen Kaeja, Torres & Plumb) – Immediacy, instinct and the vulnerability of our senses
An athletic, robust, yet beautifully vulnerable and at times comic piece – and accompanied by a haunting soundtrack (composed by Edgardo Moreno, featuring violinist Jessica Hana Deutsch), and featuring sharp atmospheric lighting and fog effects (by Oz Weaver) – .0 plays on the tension of opposites. Holding back/explosive action. Isolation/engagement. Effervescent/exhausted. Playfully confrontational, aggressively gentle, the piece plays on cause and effect, incorporating movement from contact improv, martial arts (judo) and balletic, gender-neutral lifts to powerfully dynamic effect.

TAXI! (by Karen Kaeja, with Caldwell, Cerneacov, Groppler, Allen Kaeja & Plumb) – Things I forgot to tell you: That I love you. That I love you. That I love you. (from Anaïs Nin, A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953)
Playing on the theme of coupling – and navigating romance in the midst of a challenging world – TAXI! Is whimsical and poignant, cheeky and sexy, and full of languid, sensuous and playful movement and interaction – not to mention sharp comic timing – as the choreography brings the dancers together and pulls them apart. This piece weaves original composition (Sarah Shugarman and Phil Strong, performed by Strong), pop music and text, allowing the dancers to engage with the theme physically, verbally and vocally – with overlapping relationship storytelling and singing along like nobody’s watching to Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’ (In and Out of Love)” – as well as voice-over recordings of a young boy (Willem Kerr) offering general life advice and reciting marriage vows (from the mouths of babes…). As I left the theatre, with “Fallin’ (In and Out of Love)” running through my head, I know I’d never hear that song the same way again. With shouts to lighting designer Oz Weaver.

Kaeja d’Dance’s 25th Anniversary Concert is a yin and yang of fluidity, strength, beauty and connection. Get yourself out to see this marvelous, innovative dance company.

Kaeja d’Dance’s 25th Anniversary Concert continues this week till March 28 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre – check out the details and buy tickets online here.

Look out for Kaeja d’Dance’s Porch View Dances this summer (Aug 19-23). You can also keep up with Kaeja d’Dance on Twitter – and check out the trailer for the 25th Anniversary Concert:

A chilling look at mad atrocity planned with rational boardroom expediency – Heretofore Productions’ staged reading of Conspiracy

Conspiracy p 1--Final 15I went to see Heretofore Productions’ marvelous staged reading of Loring Mandel’s Conspiracy at Grace Church on-the-Hill (300 Lonsdale Road) last night, the first of a two-night run. Co-produced by Leeman Kessler and Danielle Capretti, and co-directed by Capretti and Vivian Hisey, this is an adaptation of Mandel’s film Conspiracy, a documentary-like look at the 1942 Wannsee Conference, where a group of high-ranking Nazi officials decide on the details of their Final Solution.

With the audience set up around the conference table, we literally get a fly-on-the-wall look at the proceedings – made all the more chilling by how ordinary the meeting looks on the surface as we witness the disturbing discussion about the fate of 11 million people.

The use of a mixed cast, with female actors playing some of the parts, drives home the humanity of the people attending this meeting – however unthinkable the subject. Seeing these characters in modern-day corporate costuming (co-director/actor Danielle Capretti pointed out during the talkback that red costume highlights, such as a handkerchief, denoted SS officials), one gets the feeling that one could be observing any corporate or government boardroom meeting; despite the horrible topic at hand, the conference is very much about business. Here, we see madness and power enacted under a thin veil of rationality, practicality and legal reasoning – but it’s important to not demonize these people. Viewing these men as monsters distances them from ourselves in such a way as to deny that this kind of meeting could happen anytime, anywhere. They could be anyone. The Catholic and Lutheran churches would turn a blind eye, and the Nazis had already seen ample evidence of international rejection of Jewish refugees. The sense that there is plenty of culpability to go around provides an easy rationale for the Nazis’ undertaking.

Language is sharpened to a polite point, its lethal intent civilized by euphemism. “The Jewish question” or “problem.” “Evacuate.” “Process.” Legal terminology is used to define and debate who is a Jew and who is German. Statistics on mortality by various means are casually noted – and mined for the most efficient and expedient methodology, with a nod to the Americans for their “ingenious” assembly line innovation. And, with the iron grip of the SS in charge of the discussion, it gradually dawns on you that the conference is a mere formality – all has been decided and all that is required from attendees is obedience.

Kessler, Capretti and Hisey have an impressive ensemble of actors for this run, including, in order of appearance:
Lt. Colonel Adolf Eichmann – Marisa King
Dr. Josef Bühler – Danielle Capretti
Major Dr. Rudolf Lange – Gregory Corkum
Brig. Gen. Dr. K. E. Schöngarth – Gabriel DiFabio
Dr. Georg Leibbrandt – Olivia Jon
Dist. Leader Dr. Alfred Meyer – Alan Page
U-Sec. Of State Martin Luther – Jeremy Henson
Sec. Of State Erich Neumann – Manda Whitney
Sec. Of State Dr. W. Stuckart – Janice Hansen
Major General Otto Hofmann – Christopher Kelk
Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger – Vivian Hisey
Brig. Gen. Gerhard Klopfer – Neil Kulin
Brig. Gen. Dr. Roland Freisler – Jen Ashby
Maj. General Heinrich Müller – Rob Schock
General Reinhard Heydrich – Will van der Zyl
Stenographer – Emily Hisey Bowden
Guard – Heather Chaytor

Each actor does an excellent job of finding the humanity in his/her character – again, it’s important to not view these men as demons, but as people. Ordinary people doing abhorrent things. Otherwise, we learn nothing. Political and power play infighting abound. While Stuckart (the architect of the Nuremburg Laws) is more concerned with the legal implications of their decision and nervous bureaucrat Neumann is worried about workforce issues, Kritzinger (the only one to express remorse in the end) is the only one who seems to have a modicum of conscience; and both Stuckart and Kritzinger are bullied by Heydrich to acquiesce to the plan. And we have Luther to thank for what we know of this meeting. Against orders, he kept his transcript and it was found in the aftermath of the war.

Allen Kaeja of Kaeja d’Dance, the son of an Auschwitz survivor who has choreographed several pieces about the Holocaust, hosted the post-reading talk-back, and shared the moving and incredible story of his dad’s experience and how he escaped.

During the talkback, the point about the importance of the characters being portrayed as human came up several times. No one is immune to being in a position to make horrific decisions, particularly in a culture of fear, in this case presided over by Heydrich and the SS, who were not above bullying or threatening other officials, and willing to do the killing that average soldiers lacked the stomach for (a morale problem pointed out by Lange during the meeting). The matter of fact, almost casual tone of this terrible conference discussion is made all the more tragic by how human these men are, highlighted by Hofmann becoming momentarily ill and Kritzinger being visibly sick at heart at the end of the meeting.

The issue of intent also came up – an audience member mentioned that the actions of this group of men went beyond discrimination, but to selling their souls for power. Actor Janice Hansen called to mind the classic psychology experiment in which subjects were instructed to administer electric shocks to an unseen person, who they could hear reacting in pain. Subjects who continued to give the shocks weren’t evil, they just weren’t able to disobey or say no. We need to believe that ordinary people can do terrible things.

Heretofore Productions’ Conspiracy is a chilling look at mad atrocity planned with rational boardroom expediency and legal debate.

You have one more chance to catch this very brief run of this excellent staged reading: tonight (Fri, Nov 21) at 7 p.m. Admission is free and there will be another post-performance talkback tonight.

Department of Corrections: An earlier version of this post included incomplete/incorrect information on the producing and directing teams; this has since been corrected.