As the current International Resident Dance Company for the Chutzpah Festival, Bodytraffic have brought their bold, contemporary dance from Los Angeles for four Canadian premieres. Company directors Tina Finkelman Berkett and Lillian Rose Barbeito combine highly skilled dancers and cutting-edge works by intrepid choreographers to create their distinct style.
Grooving to a stunning smooth jazz playlist, the dancers in Richard Siegal’s The New 45 moved as if the music was controlling them. Every flip of the wrist or turn of the ankle was in sync with the music, interpreting it in playful, fluid motions.
Kollide by Kyle Abraham was a slower, more serious work that seemed influenced by ancient mythology. Dressed in muted, natural tones, the dancers embodied characters that represented ideas larger than themselves. The deliberate pace allowed for plenty of time to ponder the meanings and interpretations of the work.
Joshua L. Peugh’s A Trick of the Light brought the tempo and playfulness back up as the dancers paired up in pastel coloured ‘50s era dresses and old fashioned suits. The choreography blended in some funny quirks — the dancers smelled their feet periodically, and one dancer struggled to pull a rope from one side of the stage to the other until he made it across, only to turn around and continue in the other direction.
The old-fashioned romantic songs in this piece added to the wistful tone, along with the confetti dropped on some of the couples by dancers carried across the stage on their partner’s shoulders. I loved the way this piece played with a classic waltz, adding in elements of surprise and plenty of fun.
Once again, before you go by Victor Quijada was a fitting, melancholic way to end the program. With hip-hop, breakdance, and street dance influences, this work was effortlessly cool, perfectly synchronized, and full of wonderful dynamic tension. The lighting also added an element of mystery, as dancers emerged from the darkness at the back of the stage to join the rest of the group. The final moment featured one dancer raised up by invisible hands, a single light shining on her face.
Bodytraffic’s return to Chutzpah this year shows why they are such a renowned contemporary company, and I hope they will continue to share their diverse repertoire with us.