In 1996, Toronto dance critic Paula Citron inaugurated a prize to recognize the accomplishments of independent choreographers at fFIDA. Since then, the Paula Citron Award has been variously conferred on dance artists selected from Moving Pictures Festival of Dance on Film and Video, Fresh Blood, a showcase of emerging choreographers, and now the mini-festival dance: made in canada/fait au canada.
Ms. Citron’s very subjective criteria chooses a work that compels attention for any number of reasons, be it highly sophisticated craftsmanship or unusual subject matter. The object of the Paula Citron Award is to congratulate a choreographer on his or her artistry.
The 2011 winner is Keiko Ninomiya. As an interesting side note, Ms. Ninomiya won the Paula Citron Award in 2003 for the joint piece she created with Louis Laberge-Côté for fFIDA.
Keiko Ninomiya’s Kanan-Kiri
Ninomiya is of Japanese heritage, but in this piece, she explores Balinese dance. The exquisite beauty of this choreography reflects the homage and respect she pays to another dance tradition, while, at the same time, adding intriguing elements of menace and surprise.
The well-known, stylistic vocabulary of Balinese dance is present, but beneath the lyrical grace lurks a provocative subtext. Toward the end of the piece, Ninomiya’s highly agitated muscle manipulations and body contractions evoke the image of a black widow spider luring her prey for the kill.
This mysterious, seductive work is of the whole cloth – choreographically and theatrically. Nami Sawada’s set is a gorgeous spider web overlaid by crystalline sparkles with a large moon above. Sharon Hann has costumed Ninomiya in a tight-fitting, black velveteen gown that evokes Balinese national dress. John Carnes’ score is anchored in the gongs of Indonesian gamelan orchestras, but modernist in sound. The totality of the work – the care in which all the elements have been put together – deserve kudos.