On this evening at the Citadel, the audience were turned longways; the brick wall to our right. We looked from tiered seating to a small white square floor with a good number of coloured lights on the ceiling and at the edges. The set up is important because this performance was about memories, memories from childhood, and how you frame a memory can be everything.
Through the chatter we came to notice a gently smiling man sitting on a black chair in one corner, off to the side. Elegantly dishevelled, he sat politely, in black dinner suit with a notebook in his lap, pink mouth curved nicely, patiently at his guests. Introducing Christopher Butterfield, composer. Cue seaside sounds, mingling with traffic noise, upbeat songs on the radio from a different time. Luke Garwood walks in with care and concentration, as though on a tightrope. He is joined by Erin Poole. For regular dance-goers in Toronto (and perhaps Berlin, where Garwood also ranges), these names will strike a chord. They are of the leap-out-at-you-from-the back-of-the-stage ilk, chosen for their dramatic gifts as much as terpsichorean skill. They are the kind of dancers you might entrust to inhabit you, were a dance made about you. Which, I suppose, is exactly what Laurence Lemieux and Bill Coleman did when remixing their 2005 work, “Les Paradis Perdus.”
The choreography was the only sign of company directors Lemieux and Coleman this evening, making no appearance at curtain, even when the cast was called back twice by sustained applause. Momentarily, from the composer’s mouth came a string of memories, sung-spoken overtop the soundtrack, to which Garwood and Poole danced in a mesmeric manner. Their gestures were familiar enough that we could follow along, and it became almost like a game of catching the meaning, before the memory slipped away, chased by another, another. But literal understanding is beside the point (a clever joke is even made in this direction). Dressed in tonal patchwork tunics and orange and blue felt cloches, (by Jane Townsend) Garwood and Poole gently eased the insides of memories out.
From the specific, childhood universals rose. A first, bewildering ballet concert, Poole shyly finds her place, and friendship takes centre stage—even when those friends are bossy. Garwood corrects Poole’s arm placement, caressing the front of her shoulder with the palm of his hand—flatten here—a refined gesture speaking perhaps to his own balletic foundation, as much as to Lemieux, or perhaps Coleman’s formative experience with dance. The composer travelled an orbit around the stage, behind the audience, suggestive of the passage of time, leaving the dance to blossom. And fade. Garwood drifts away, and in a deco flourish Poole is caught in a shrinking spotlight, signalling the end of our glimpse of the past.
The second in Bright Nights, a new performing arts series implicating the intimate Citadel with the grand Sony Centre, “Les Paradis Perdus/Remix” is another dance gem from CLC. With Lemieux as the series’ programmer, Bright Nights promises to shine, maybe directly in your eyes.