Dance Review – Citadel + Compagnie/Citadel Dance Mix 18: choreography by Allison Cummings, DA Hoskins & Tori Mehaffey

Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

Dance Review – Citadel + Compagnie/Citadel Dance Mix 18: Choreography by Allison Cummings, DA Hoskins & Tori Mehaffey, The Citadel/Ross Centre for Dance, Nov. 21 to Dec. 1, 2018. Tickets available at 416-364-8011, ext. 1 or

It’s hard to remember a time when the Citadel was not a part of the dance life of Toronto. Artistic director Laurence Lemieux’s latest venture, as part of the company’s Bright Nights Series, is Citadel Dance Mix 18, where she invites three choreographers, both veteran and emerging, to mount works, thus providing performance opportunities in the hard-pressed dance market. Lemieux has chosen the triple bill to reflect “daring and exciting” dance creators, and the results would seem to justify her description.

Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

The choreography of Allison Cummings is almost non-choreography because it is so organic. The movement seems to arise naturally out of the body. There never seems to be any “dance steps” per se, but, within its simplicity, it packs a wallop. Add to the mix a completely quirky outlook on life, coupled with a wry sense of humour, and a Cummings’ work is bound to be as troubling as it is delicious.

As she shall obtain such command of her mass vein passageways, (the title is pure Cummings), is a work for the captivating Kaitlin Standeven. She begins standing behind a maquette of accoutrements that look like they belong to Queen Elizabeth 1 – crown, ruff, breastplate, gloves etc. – all strung together like a skeleton, hence the command metaphor. She then proceeds to delicately step around the stage, occasionally engaging in swooping arm movements, and rolling floor work. Diametrically downstage from the maquette is a bleeding heart dripping into a vase. This is her goal – to reach that heart and squeeze the life out of it. Cummings’ notes describe the work as a duet between a dancer and the desire to control. She also uses adjectives like unraveling and despairing.

On the surface, the piece is seemingly straightforward, effortless and uncomplicated, but at one point, Standeven has to dance with one eye shut, and the other one wide open, which can’t be easy. In other words, the woman keeps throwing up her own obstacles. The dancer herself is mesmerizing as she draws us deep into her inner journey. The expression on Standeven’s face is one of pure ecstasy. In other words, once again Cummings manages to present a portrait that is mysterious, beautiful and dark, all at the same time. Valerie Calam/Company Vice Versa provided the evocative sound and costume design, while, as always, Simon Rossiter has come up with the perfect atmospheric lighting.

Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

What can you say about DA Hoskins/The Dietrich Group except his choreographic vision is provocative, puzzling and at times, downright funny? His dances may follow a logical path in his own mind, but they present themselves as a parade of images that wash over the audience. The best way to enjoy a Hoskins’ piece is to absorb it, rather than consciously search for meaning. The meaning will reveal itself over time by osmosis.

LadyBaby is a reimagining of LADY: Images in a Melodramatic Setting from 2010. Hoskins’ premise remains the same – an exploration of identity, although he says that this latest incarnation further explores the evolution of the individual. The central figure is a woman (the great Danielle Baskerville), and, as Hoskins tells us in his program notes, through her myth, her sexuality and her stories, we try to determine who she is. Is there just one definition of identity peculiar to her? Does the audience conjure up identities for her based on the images we see? Functioning as a Greek chorus are two male dancers – Brodie Stevenson and Sébastien Provencher – whose movement seems to reflect the woman’s musings. For example, at one point she reads a long passage discussing the meaning and cultural impact of the term “sissy boy”, while the two perform a homoerotic duet. Other images that Hoskins presents include a clip from the 1936 Greta Garbo/Robert Taylor film Camille, a bitchy picnic, a naked bath in a tin tub, projections from a collage of Miss America pageants – all fascinating Hoskins-isms that, presumably, relate to identity. Omar David Rivero’s pulsing score matches the many mood changes, along with Angeline St. Amour’s very focused lighting. The wry text is credited to Jill Battson and Jordan Tannahill, and the video to Nico Stagias.

Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

Citadel + Cie. commissioned emerging artist Tori Mehaffey to create Avoidance, and she certainly shows talent. The first image is absolutely stunning. Four dancers (Kelly Shaw, Luke Garwood, Daniel Gomez and Connor Mitton) suddenly appear under a bright, vertical neon bar. They are garbed all in white, and stylishly so, courtesy of Hoax Couture. The men’s attire, even on the lone woman, includes suits, vests, shirts, suspenders, bowties – everyone is dressed just a little bit differently. The fifth character is a red wooden chair that they dance over, on, under and so forth. The chair also travels around the stage. Mehaffey created her own ominous drone-like score, and Rossiter has given her a lighting design to kill for, particularly the effective use of the vertical neon bar which seems to be trauma central.

Mehaffey sees the piece as portraying people who have distanced themselves from personal events due to the fear of the responses they evoke. Shaw is the central player, and both the chair, and the three men, seem to function as the events to be avoided. Mehaffey has certainly created some interesting images, particularly in partnering, but there is much repetition and she needed a good editor. The piece is too long and loses interest over time. Nonetheless, a young choreographer who takes on an abstract topic and designs attractive movement to reflect that concept, has talent and promise that will come to fruition in the fullness of time.