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Intermezzi: The Art of Time Ensemble proves dolls and dance don’t mix

By Kelsey Sunstrum on May 4, 2015

Intermezzi: Art of Time Ensemble, enjoyed this past Wednesday at the National Arts Centre, marked both the commencement of this year’s Ontario Scene, the annual program celebrating provincial artists of all kinds, as well as International Dance Day. Fitting, as the presentation featured renowned Canadian contemporary choreographers, Peggy Baker and James Kudelka, and internationally celebrated dancer, Evelyn Hart.

The performance was a physical exploration of several of nineteenth-century German composer, Johannes Brahms’ pieces from his Intermezzi, written at the end of his life and teeming with emotional depth. Brahms’ compositions are brought to life brilliantly by the skilled hands of pianist Andrew Burashko, who doubles as the Artistic Director of The Art of Time Ensemble. The first and second half use different dancers and choreographers, and are two remarkably contrasting interpretations of Brahms’ music.

Intermezzi begins with Her Heart, the soulful and intricate contemporary dance performed by the captivating Jessica Runge. Choreographed by Peggy Baker, Runge’s movements meshed with the music magically, combining contemporary with character dancing. From her perfectly pointed feet to the precision of her ronde de jambe, Runge exudes emotion and is truly a pleasure to watch.

While introducing the Art of Time Ensemble at the beginning of the concert, Burashko described the compositions of Johannes Brahms as “misunderstood.” Certainly, there was a veil of misunderstanding as we returned to the second half of the evening, Kudelka’s world premiere of #lovesexBrahms.

A performance choreographed for eight dancers, the star of the show was undoubtedly the doll. Props in dances are not inherently problematic, but the inclusion of what appeared to be a Lord Voldemort Mini-Me was misguided. Surely, the doll held a deep symbolic significance but I cannot tell you what that significance is. As the story first developed, it appeared obvious the doll was representative of a child, bringing clear joy to its parents while also acting as a wedge, pushing them apart. Soon, however, as the other six dancers were brought in the mix, I was quickly confused and left wondering what exactly was the role of the doll.

Looking around at my fellow patrons of the arts, I was relieved to find furrowed brows and pages of the program being flipped as they too attempted to decipher the meaning of the figure. The abstract piece was not lost on all, though. Appreciative chuckles were heard as a few apparently supremely cultured attendees catch onto a joke, as Louis Laberge-Côté carefully walks the doll towards the audience. I wish for the umpteenth time that night that I knew what was going on.

The overall confusion of #lovesexBrahms is a real shame as its dancers were extremely talented individuals and possessed magnetic group chemistry, most exemplified by the charismatic Evelyn Hart.

The Art of Time Ensemble is a multidisciplinary Toronto group inspired by music. Using this passion, they aim to unpack the universality of music by pairing it with other arts, like dance, theatre, and literature. The Ensemble will embark on an 11-city tour of the United States in November 2015, set to the music of the prolific Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Find out more about The Art of Time Ensemble on their website.