The two men look at each other in pain – first leaning in, then pushing away resiliently. Their ribs seem to almost puncture their skin while performing intricate movements in sync. They are fighting then reconciling, like brothers, friends or lovers. In the audience, everyone is staring at the stage, enraptured.
This was the Ryerson Theatre School’s March 7 debut performance of their annual Choreographic Works production. The show—just over two hours long, with a brief 15-minute intermission—featured original choreography from second, third and fourth-year dance students, while theatre production students created the set.
“I am really looking forward to seeing how every show works out,” said Daniela Aiurato, a theatre production student who is working the front of house throughout the shows. “We all worked really hard for the last two months so I want them to all run smoothly and efficiently.”
One of the performances featured two girls – dressed alike in cream rockabilly shirt dresses – dancing to a 1950s-style song (in which static, as though from a record machine, broke up the notes). The dancers copied each other’s movements until one dancer appeared to slowly break down, like the other was an alter ego or ghost haunting her.
During the performances, the audience sat on risers on the stage, while the dancers performed directly in front of them. Each performance from these shows tells a story, and from the audience vantage point, you can see every bead of sweat, as well as hear every breath and step. The lights, placed strategically to work with the performers, also highlighted the movements at all the right times, further immersing the audience into the dances.
“We are really proud of this group of students,” producer Kenny Pearl announced before the show. “The 40 behind-the-scenes students work just as hard as the dancers.”
Though most of the pieces were breathtaking in nature, a few seemed more amusing and, frankly, silly. These are the more contemporary, interpretive pieces, which may not be as easily understood by general audiences. One featured a dancer making a barking-like noise and a vomiting motion, while a girl convulsed on the floor next to him.
Other dance styles in the show included ballet, hip-hop and lyrical. The costumes ranged, from everyday clothes to dresses, leotards and skirts with matching tops. The performances ranged in size from solos and duets to ensemble pieces.
This combination of dance was integral to keeping the audience captivated during the show, which it managed to do effectively during opening night. Even if audience members don’t quite understand the dance, they will be able to appreciate the talent and hard work of the dancers involved.
Choreographic Works runs until March 15, with 26 alternating performances.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 12, 2014.