Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Siminovitch and Stravinsky

In the Globe and Mail yesterday an announcement of the three directors nominated for the latest installment of the Siminovitch Prize in Canadian Theatre. The prize, the most lucrative of its kind in the country, and which uniquely requires the winner to bestow a quarter of the $100,000 award upon a protégé of his or her choice, had been doling out the kudos to playwrights, directors, and designers on a rotating basis since 2001. However, after last year's award it was announced the prize would be suspended due to a lack of sufficient funds in its endowment. Fortunately, over the summer the University of Toronto and the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation stepped in to shore up the finances, and the award is back on track.

Among this year's nominees, I know Chris Abraham's work best. The Artistic Director of Crows Theatre in Toronto, he directed the original Toronto production of Eternal Hydra, which Touchstone staged in Vancouver last fall. And he also refereed the James Long and Marcus Youssef's Winners and Losers, which played the PuSh Festival this past January and arrives at Canadian Stage in Toronto this November following an acclaimed international tour. Ironically (or not), Abraham was the first Siminovitch protégé back in 2001, chosen by winner Daniel Brooks.

Also yesterday I got to my second--and likely last--VIFF film. Autumn's Spring, directed by Denis Sneguriev and Philippe Chevalier, is a moving documentary about choreographer Thierry Thieû Niang's seven-year collaboration with a group of elderly men and women from Marseilles, most of whom had never danced before, and several of whom had severe mobility issues. However, under Niang's tutelage, they produced a version of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring that ended up playing to acclaim at the Avignon Festival and, eventually, at the hallowed Théâtre de Châtelet in Paris.

Every year there are usually one or two dance documentaries at VIFF--this year, for instance, there is also Toa Fraser's film capturing the New Zealand Royal Ballet's version of Giselle. Two years ago the stand-out was Bess Kargman's First Position, about six young dancers preparing for the Youth American Grand Prix competition in New York. That film, which I briefly blogged about here, was as much about the personal sacrifices as the professional talent of its young, classically trained, subjects. Autumn's Spring, in forcing us to question, among other things, what counts as dance and who counts as a dancer, shows us the joy that movement brings regardless of age--and ability.


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