Review: Citadel Dance Mix 2019 (Citadel+Compagnie)

Ballet ‘sampler’ perfect for old hats and newcomers alike

Citadel Dance Mix 2019 is like a sample platter of contemporary ballet, showcasing the choreography of three local dancers, Syreeta Hector, Christianne Ullmark, and Nova Bhattacharya. Their styles are highly contrasting and the themes explored are varied, creating a good opportunity for newcomers to modern ballet to experience the diversity of expression that is possible. Suffice it to say, it is a far cry from The Nutcracker or Swan Lake.

Citadel+Compagnie’s goal is to create, cultivate and curate new work, providing a safe environment where dance artists and choreographers can experiment and explore. The dance mix program gives each choreographer 20 minutes to develop new ideas, with the support of the dancers of the company. Each piece has its own lighting design and minimal staging in a small, black box studio.

The first performance is an abridged version of Syreeta Hector’s acclaimed SummerWorks solo show, Black Ballerina. As I observed at her SummerWorks performance, Hector is a deft visual storyteller. Black Ballerina explores the creator’s engagement with the European high art of ballet as a Black and Indigenous woman. In four movements, the piece looks at alienation and constraint, as well as opportunities to celebrate and incorporate the dance styles that are part of her heritage. Given that this 20-minute presentation is scaled down from an hour-long show, I was not sure if I would have fully grasped the storytelling if I had not seen the full length show. Audience members who were coming to the piece tabula rasa seemed to have no difficulty immersing themselves in the piece, and one audience member described the performance as “perfect” in its ability to engage and connect with the audience. From a technical standpoint, Hector’s dancing is superb, with clear intention and elegant precision in each movement and gesture.

The second piece, close encounters in the 5th dimension by Christianne Ullmark, was performed by three members of the company. The piece starts off slowly, with the performers walking around carrying speakers for quite some time. Eventually, this gives way to more frenetic movements. At times the performers’ choreography is harmonious, while at other times existing in intentional independence or contrast. I found the thematic exploration in this work less straightforward, and the same audience member concurred that Ullmark’s piece was “harder” than Hector’s. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the athleticism of the fast-paced movement and I believe the vaguely unsettled feeling the audience was left with was very intentional.

Nova Bhattacharya’s piece, Red and Yellow, opened with each performer blowing what appeared to be turmeric and paprika onto the stage. Bhattacharya’s piece explores the synergy of the self and the collective. At first, the five dancers are independent, but over the course of 20 minutes they coalesce into pairs and small ensembles, finally merging into a single form at the end of the piece. The overall aesthetic is of a graceful and quiet beauty, leveraging the similarities of form between ballet and Indian classical dance.

I think even a total novice to ballet would enjoy at least one of these three different dance presentations. I am a big proponent of presentations that feature short works by multiple artists for newcomers to a genre. Citadel+Compagnie’s theatre is in the heart of Regent Park and an excellent feature of the neighbourhood revitalization.

Details:

  • Citadel Dance Mix 2019 is playing until December 7, 2019 at Citadel+Compagnie (304 Parliament Street)
  • Showtimes are 8 PM November 27-30 and December 4-7, 2019. Post-show talkback hosted by Danielle Baskerville after the December 5 performance.
  • Tickets are $25.
  • Tickets are available online.

Photo of Syreeta Hector by Jason Tse

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