For the latest edition (number 31) of Dances for a Small Stage, Artistic Producer Julie-anne Saroyan has teamed up with Music on Main's David Pay to curate an evening of music and dance that coincides with the launch of MoM's Modulus Festival. The result is one of the best and most tightly conceived DSS offerings in a long time.
The evening is divided into two halves. In the first, Toronto's Cecilia String Quartet (Min-Jeong Koh and Sarah Nematallah on violin, Caitlin Boyle on viola, and Rachel Desoer on cello) perform Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Opus 11. Each of the four movements is accompanied by a different dance sequence. In the first, the evening's mute maestro, Billy Marchenski, appears perplexed by the Moderato that he has failed to initiate, but that has gotten away from him nonetheless. This is followed by former Ballet BC star Makaila Wallace dancing to Karissa Barry's delightful interpretation of the Andante section; b-boy Stewart Iguidez popping and locking and dropping and posing to the Scherzo; and, finally, Vanessa Goodman, in a sheer white hoop skirt designed by Deborah Beaulieu, channeling her inner Isadora Duncan to the rousing Finale.
Following an intermission, the second half of the program proceeds as a series of short choreographic riffs on the music of John Oswald, the electro-acoustic composer from Ontario best known for his philosophy and practice of "plunderphonics"--transcribing, adapting, rearranging, collaging and just generally mashing up previously existing recordings. Most of the choreography is provided by Oswald's partner, Holly Small, who was one of Saroyan's dance instructors at York University. This includes an excerpt from Small's award-winning Radiant (2009) that was danced to stunning effect by Sean Ling and Goodman. They are joined by or alternate with Jessica Runge and Small herself for most of the other pieces, although Iguidez returns in the penultimate excerpt to display some of his own stylin' moves to an Oswald rearrangement of a Curtis Lee song. The Cecilia String Quartet also reappears briefly to perform a beautiful piece by Oswald, preLieu (1991), based on Beethoven's B-flat Major quartet.
Interspersed throughout the evening are also some vintage videos, including of Glenn Gould, whose famous humming and vocal accompaniment to his own piano playing becomes another important motif linking the expressivity of sound with that of bodily movement.