The Magic of Assembly, presented by Toronto Dance Theatre, begins with eight performers surrounding the audience, arms raised purposefully over us as if tapping into our essence to conjure their magic. As the sound of app notifications ping irregularly, the performers make eye contact with us, breaking that fourth wall. It’s gone for good, actually, even as they back away from us, taking the sounds of the outside world with them.
This collaborative production genuinely embodies the spirit of assembly. From the integration of distinctive artistic practices to the spectators’ relationship to the performers—this sense of communal experience is firmly established and maintained. Blending forms of street dance (punking/whacking), contemporary dance and electronic music, the air feels charged with a heightened sensory awareness.
The choreography by Andrew Tay and Ashley Colours Perez takes familiar gestures we recognize from our mundane daily routines—dialling a phone, licking an ice-cream cone, brushing teeth—and re-contextualizes them as pageantry. The performers—Yuichiro Inoue, Peter Kelly, Megumi Kokuba, Ryan Kostyniuk, Erin Poole, Devon Snell, Roberto Soria and Siwar Soria—leap, tumble, sashay and spasm; their singular trajectories send them careering into each other, through which a thrilling and evocative collective dynamic emerges. Impressively, the larger spectacle never diminishes the individual personalities in flux and self-aware.
The resonant, experimental soundscape—composed and performed by local duo LAL (Rosina Kazi and Nicholas Murray)—feels organically in sync with the movement. Driving beats propel thrusting, rhythmic contortions, but also guide the dancers into gentle, wistful moments of meditative stillness. Throughout, lighting designer Gabriel Cropley bathes the vast space in bright, saturated colours that fluctuate in tune with the mood.
This kaleidoscopic aesthetic is completed by Angela Cabrera’s costumes. As you scan the varied, textured surfaces of the outfits, you find repurposed strips of athletic wear—hugging tightly in some places, chaotically tattered in others. In the clashing colours, you catch glimpses of brand names and logos, making each body an expressive landscape—both familiar and fanciful.
The audience at opening was a fully engaged body of visceral support and celebration. As performers found unique pockets of flamboyant expression, enthusiastic call outs of “let’s go,” “werk,” and “we see you” shot through the crowd. The vibe was stirring and playful with people swaying and stomping their feet in shared joy. And when the huge tarp comes out, you know you’re in for a messy good time!
The finale, in particular, has some astonishing magic. The performers come together to hammer out a tangible, cumulative ectoplasm that hangs in the air—a delicate, precarious manifestation of their collaborative bond. Overall, The Magic of Assembly, in all its goofy and athletic splendour, is a gratifying burst of colour and collective fun.