Thursday, November 14, 2013

Luminous Art: The Margie Gillis Dance Foundation at the Paula Fleck Theatre

It's been seventeen years since The Margie Gillis Dance Foundation, the company of internationally renowned dancer and choreographer, Margie Gillis appeared in Toronto.

As I watched last night's performance, I could only wonder how much we've missed.

Margie Gillis is celebrating her 40th year as a dance creator this year.  THE LIGHT BETWEEN, one of three works she is presenting this year, ran for two nights at the Paula Fleck Theatre at the Harbourfornt Centre this week.

More than two years in the making, THE LIGHT BETWEEN is a highly evolved collaboration between Margie Gillis and sculptor and painter, Randal Newman. The work explores the charged, complex and nuanced terrain of the relationship between an artist's life and their work.  They were joined in their creative process by dancer, director and dramaturge Paula Styron, dancer Marc Daigle, costume designer Anne Dixon, lighting designer, Pierre Lavoie, sound and music designer Larsen Lupin and dancer Holly Bright, who did not perform last night, but was instrumental in the creation of the piece.

The result  is an exquisitely beautiful, highly refined, deeply felt and profoundly moving work of art. Sound, text, music, visual elements, dance and performance were intelligently and sensitively synthesized by a team of seasoned collaborators.

Joy, passion, carnality, desire, longing, grief, suffering, compassion, empathy and loss all passed before us and indeed through us, as Gillis, Styron and Daigle  took us on a journey through a series of shifting relationships with themselves and others. The company made palpable the human struggle to fill the deep soul need for love and connection and how that need gets channeled through and satisfied by the creative process of making art.

Lately, I am often physically impressed by dance performances I see, but  mostly I'm left feeling cold.  Last night, the lyricism and emotional commitment of the performers combined with the other creative elements of the production achieved what physical pyrotechnics seldom do.  I was moved to tears.

Ms.Gillis and I share a set designer, Randal Newman so I know from professional experience what a sensitive and inventive collaborator he is. Here, Newman has created a series of eight, large, sculptural, hanging black mesh panels incorporating both fragments of text and elements of the human body  As a stand-alone work of art, the set is beautiful.  As the dancers both moved through and interacted, it became a performer in its own right.

I can count on one hand the number of times in my life I've seen a production this good on every level. Each and every element of the performance: physical, technical and artistic was executed at the highest possible level.

The only thing I was sorry about last night was that the show was over.  Toronto was the last stop for this production for now.  I hope some producer will bring it back here again for a longer run.  If you missed THE LIGHT BETWEEN, you missed something very special.