Dancing back into the season with Ryerson performance students

Ryerson’s performance dance students began their season on Tuesday at the premiere of Ryerson Dances 2017.

This year’s fall showcase gives both dance and production students the chance to collaborate under the choreographic direction of Hub 14 resident Valerie Calam, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Alejandro Cerrudo, former National Ballet of Canada dancer Matjash Mrozewski and Ryerson’s dance program director Vicki St. Denys.

The show opens with the eerie extended silence of Clam’s Soft Firm Hand, a piece which first debuted at Ryerson Dances in 2009 and has been extensively reworked since then. Through both music and masterful lighting design from Simon Rossiter, an almost dystopian tale unfolds in equal parts wonder and heartbreak.

We’re then brought to an underground jazz club in St. Denys’ Pulse…version blue. The opening begins slow with the introduction to a concert recording — as the wax starts spinning the ensemble itself begins to spark to life. What follows is a smooth-as-ice piece exploring the bop, cool jazz and hard bop eras. It demands a great deal of talent and charisma from the dancers, all of whom show up with the right amount of spunk to bring the ‘40s and ‘50s to life.

Cerrudo’s Lickety-Split is poetry. The piece was acquired with the support of Fall for Dance North’s Ilter Ibrahimof, and was brought to Ryerson with the help of Cerrudo’s colleagues and chorographic assistants Terence Marling and Jamy Meek. Using the smallest ensemble of the night, the piece is a deeply intimate exploration with embellishes of comedic flair. The lighting design by Rossiter and Ryan O’Gara frames the piece. Twice, first at the beginning and finally to end the piece, a thin beam of horizontal light is splashed across the stage and matched with a pitch black background to reduce the performance almost to a painted canvas.

The Night Dance closed off the show. Mrozewski’s choreography is dedicated to the Ryerson dancers on stage performing it, and their influence is present throughout. What could have just as easily been a gorgeous nod to Baroque dance is interjected with contemporary style, acting and social commentary which ranges from heartwarmingly funny to shockingly potent.

Ryerson Dances is your best chance to see the entire dance school come together until Choreographic Works in early March. It’s not to be missed. The show runs until Nov. 18.