The first live performance was choreographer Dianne Montgomery’s Softly Losing, Softly Gaining. Two musicians provide live music—violin and saxophone. Six performers—in elegant, brightly coloured casual dress attire—tap dance to an eclectic, mostly jazzy soundtrack.
Particularly stunning was a huge backdrop of projected artworks that bleed into each other. These fanciful images were a blend of abstract and representational scenes that suggest surreal carnivals, evocative skies, and cosmic visions. I loved the fluid, gradual transitions bursting with whimsy and splendour. The overall effect is celebratory.
Up next, came the short film of a dance work called “…Savannah?”, choreographed by Zui Gomez and featuring herself and Alicia Delgado. The continuous, one-take format is used to great affect here, immersing us in a playful dynamic between the two as they scamper through a studio space. Some off-beat surprises lurk in the background. Highly dynamic and amusing, though it feels interstitial here.
The second live presentation was Kau Hea A Hiiaka by Kaleo Trinidad, performed by Ka Leo O Laka | Ka Hikina O Ka La. In ancestral costuming, this Hawaiian troupe offered traditional drumming and chants. The rhythmic precision is impressive, though each routine can feel monotonous as there isn’t much progression. The video accompaniment—footage of polluted waterways and intrusive industry with narration about environmental devastation—is awkwardly integrated.
Zipangu, a short film by Michael Greyeyes—with live musical accompaniment by Soundstreams’ Ensemble (a 13-member live string orchestra)—feels thematically rich, though I found it hard to connect to. As a lone female figure emerges from tattered, gauzy fabric, she extends herself into the light. Metallic body paint and extreme close-ups of fleshy textures figure prominently in this sensual work that seems interested in birth and regeneration.
The finale was Arise, by Jera Wolfe. Performed by 145 students from Canada’s National Ballet School, this work is truly astonishing. On a bare stage, a single lone light bulb hanging above them, the multitude of bodies in movement is a breathtaking sight. Certain figures break apart from the mass, reminding us of their individuality, but the unity of the whole never falters. Their collective undulations conjured images of sea anemones caught in deep currents. As they strive for the light above them, the power of cooperative effort radiates outward and envelopes you. It was an intensely moving spectacle.