Different people have different habits, vices even, and judging by the contents of many bookstores’ self-help sections, everyone has at least one. Hooked, by Pepper Dance Projects, running at the Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival‘s slate of dance shows, imagines what might happen if one day everyone was forced to simply stop. The answer that Hooked provides, through its talented cast and its careful narrative, is proof of the ability of dance to tell moving stories.
Hooked opens on a scene of profound disconnection as different people, each with their own particular habits, walk past each other. Dancer/playwright Kristen Pepper’s harried businesswoman is caught up in the contents of her briefcase, Alysia Charbonneau’s younger character happily uses her smartphone even with her friend, and others are driven by everything from drugs to a pathological need for connection with strangers. As the scene develops, different people begin to come into contact with each other as the music grows steadily more discordant, and these habits — these crutches, if you will — start to no longer work. What will happen when they stop? What, and who, will emerge from the aftermath?
That the story of Hooked, without any words save some broadly illustrative stage whispers, is so readily comprehensible to the audience owes everything to the clarity of its creator’s story, and to the strength of the performers. The careful structuring of movement, from the beginning of casual walks to increasingly complex and coordinated dances, was revelatory.
Without words each dancer readily took on a different personality, each with their own characteristic habits and movements. I was particularly taken by Nomi Wiersma who was able to use her considerable expressive talent to convey a sense of someone awkward and closed-off, and by Genny Stevens who took seemingly drugged, stumbling movement effortlessly into impressive gymnastics across the length of the stage. But there were certainly no weak performers here. Every performer knew what story they were trying to tell, and was able to tell it as clearly in the language of physical movement as if through mere speech.
Theatre-goers who are interested in dance, and in unconventional styles of storytelling, will find much of interest in Hooked. The hour spent watching this talented cast weave their story of disconnection and reconnection will definitely be worth it.
- Hooked plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: Smoking.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday July 5th, 10:30 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 12:00 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 3:00 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 8:15 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 3:30 pm
- Friday July 13th, 9:15 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 5:15 pm
Photo of Genny Stevens, Raine Kearns, Sarah McLennan, Nomi Wiersma, Kristen Pepper, Zoe Kenneally, and Keira Sweeney by Brian Goldenberg.