It’s a fascinating choice during the extended commercial ramp-up to Valentines day: while dollar stores overstock cinnamon hearts, the six o’ clock news compares deals on roses and even Torontoists toil at sourcing the best Valentines day activities for your romantic entertainment, Harbourfront Centre’s New World Stage brings us a grim, gutteral, fluid, hilarious and unflinchingly human exploration of the myth of a man whose desire gets him devoured by a pack of his own dogs.
The myth is Ovid’s Metamorphosis; the choreographer is Christel Johannessen; the company is Norway’s Zero Visibility Dance Corps and the piece in question, …it’s only a rehearsal, is danced by Dimitri Jourde as the hunter, Actaeon, and Line Tørmoen as the vengeful goddess, Artemis.
The pas de deux opens with a man and a woman standing just left of the dance floor. They are familiar, like strangers we’ve seen on our way to brunch, chatting in their urban uniforms of cargo pants and casual sneakers. They put the audience on edge by watching them, erasing the theatre’s already tenuous fourth wall in what will become the first of many reversals of watcher and watched, predator and prey.
The house lights remain on, and for the next 65 minutes, Tørmoen and Jourde draw, coax, drag and chase us through an intricate series of stark and intimate scenes, towards the woods of Actaeon’s ultimate demise. Alternatingly mechanical and fluid, violent and tender, hopeless and funny, the aggressive athleticism of Johannessen’s intricate and constantly moving web of sharp isolations, innovative lifts, and gravity-and-abs-defying stalls keep our gaze under their control. Thanks to the dancers’ emotional delivery and a little theatrical mischief, we fear for this woman and this relationship. We pause and wonder how to react. We cringe; we laugh; at times we almost want to look away– intervene, even– but it’s impossible not to watch.
Don’t wait to see Zero Visibility Dance Corps. …it’s only a rehearsal continues only tonight and tomorrow at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront Centre. Performances begin at 8 p.m. and run 65 minutes without an intermission. Tickets are $30, available at 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com/nws