Presented by DanceWorks at Harbourfront Centre
As we take our seats, the performance is already underway. Six dancers, in identical white track suits, vibe to music in their own little worlds. Some even occupy audience seats, forging a casual intimacy that will be vital later on. This is our introduction to In-Ward, created by Alexandra ‘Spicey’ Landé and her Ebnflōh Dance Company.
Throughout the performance, a blend of hip hop and contemporary dance, the performers will come together and break apart into pockets of communal interaction. They are never entirely on the same page at the same time, the sense of solidarity or alienation is always in flux. No mood, shared or isolated, lasts long.
A wide variety of psychological states are represented. Moments of joyful play turn suddenly sour. Individuals seek each other out, then shrink from contact. The push and pull of interaction is exhilarating. The choreography is a collaborative, partially improvised spectacle. Bodies shudder and spasm, expand and retract.
There is a fluid, dynamic fluctuation between representational tableau and abstract distillations of vaguely relatable, human phenomenon. People get trapped in clothes, awkwardly fumbling their way through a familiar process made suddenly alien. Sometimes a shirt can seem so weird; our arms and legs, usually so reliable, suddenly cumbersome and unruly.
The dancers explicit awareness of the audience allows for a sense of communal experience, obscuring the line between spectator and performer. They make direct eye contact, engaging us, even inviting someone to join an amorphous game while hilariously chanting “sports.”
It can get dark too, with some vast and oppressive existential burden creeping at the edges of their interactions. Cowering in spotlights, hands raised in surrender; then dropping, hands bound in mimed restraint—we catch harrowing glimpses of police aggression.
The set is minimal, disjointed and intriguing—a tossed pair of shoes hanging on a line, a string of light bars, a large overhead lamp, a bench. Hip hop beats predominate, though a variety of styles figure into the eclectic musicality of the soundscape.
Overall, this imaginative work feels urgent, immersive and resonant.