Fine Arts hosts the Toronto Dance Theatre

close up of Christopher House in York's dance studio

Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT), one of Canada’s pre-eminent contemporary dance companies, was this month’s artists-in-residence with York dance program. Led by its artistic director and York dance alumnus Christopher House (BFA Spec. Hon. ’79), TDT conducted classes and workshops with York dance students. This experience will culminate in two public performances by TDT of House’s provocative, widely-acclaimed work, Pteros Tactics, this week.

 Christopher House head shot Christopher House

Pteros Tactics will take place Thursday, Feb. 2 and Friday, Feb. 3 at 7:30pm in the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre, Keele campus. There will be a pre-performance talk Feb. 2 at 6:45pm in the CIBC Lobby, Accolade East Building.The event is presented by York’s Department of Dance.

“TDT’s residency has been a wonderful opportunity for our students to connect directly with performers they’d previously seen only from beyond ‘the fourth wall’ of the stage, and to expand their first-hand learning about dance professionalism,” said Claire Wootten, chair of the Department of Dance. “We’re delighted to host TDT’s Pteros Tactics on campus, giving our students and the general public – especially those who may not have had the chance to catch the show downtown – access to this exciting production.”

Pteros Tactics was initially inspired by Canadian writer Ann Carson’s essay, Eros the Bittersweet. Her image of Eros Ballplayer, with his golden sphere, provides the central metaphor in the choreography: the eros sphaira (lover’s ball) repeatedly flies above the stage in trajectories of invitation. House and his ten dancers animate “the instant of desire” with risky grace, inspired in part by their encounters with iconic choreographer Deborah Hay.

At its premiere in 2010, The Globe and Mail hailed Pteros Tactics as “…a piece that mesmerizes the eye while engaging the brain… [with] very strong dancers, an absorbing theme, sly humour and supple choreography.” The current version of Pteros Tactics, which toured to four cities in western Canada and was showcased in downtown Toronto last fall, is more playful, more kinetic and more theatrical in its effects than the original edition.

Claire Wootten head shotClaire Wootten

“For me, the essence of Pteros Tactics is the humanity – the playful life force – revealed by the performers throughout the piece,” says House. “Their engagement with the present moment, and their full-blown physicality, are thrilling to witness.”

Pteros Tactics features music by Dora Award-winning composer Phil Strong, scenography by designer Cheryl Lalonde and lighting design by Roelof Peter Snippe. This work is the second collaboration between House and Flemish dramaturg Guy Cools.

House became resident choreographer at Toronto Dance Theatre in 1981 and has served as artistic director since 1994. Over the past three decades, he has contributed more than 60 works to the company’s repertoire. His most recent works include Chiasmata (2007), Dis/(sol/ve)r (2009) and Pteros Tactics (2010). He is currently working on a major new piece, set to Rivers by the late Canadian composer Ann Southam, slated to premiere this April.

In addition to his choreography for TDT, House has also created works for Lisbon’s Ballet Gulbenkian, the National Ballet of Canada, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Ballet British Columbia, among others, and has directed two collaborations with Joel Gibb and The Hidden Cameras. As a performer, he has appeared in his own works, as well as those of a host of other leading choreographers including Sarah Chase, Peter Chin, David Earle, Deborah Hay, James Kudelka, Mark Morris and Peter Randazzo. Most recently, he performed his solo adaptation of Deborah Hay’s At Once in London and Brighton, UK.

Alongside his work as TDT’s artistic director, House serves as artistic advisor for the Professional Training Program of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and associate dance artist at Canada’s National Arts Centre. He has taught technique and creative process across Canada and at international institutions such as the Rotterdam Dansacademie, New York City’s Juilliard School, and Jacob’s Pillow, Massachusetts. His numerous honours include three Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding New Choreography, the 2009 Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Dance, and an honorary doctorate from Memorial University.

This marks Toronto Dance Theatre’s second residency at York. The Department of Dance previously hosted Christopher House and his company in 2008, culminating in a performance of TDT’s Timecode Break. Other artists-in-residence in recent years have included Cirque du Soleil choreographer and York alumna Debra Brown; Rachel Browne, founder of Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers; pioneering Quebec choreographer Françoise Sullivan; TDT co-founders and former artistic directors Patricia Beatty and David Earle; and indie choreographers/performers Danny Grossman, Meaghan O’Shea, alumna Yvonne Ng and Robert Glumbek.

Tickets cost $35 and $20 for students, seniors & CADA. To order tickets, contact the box office at 416-736-5888.