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Wendy Rose review: ‘House Mix’ brings Christopher House home

Rich Blenkinsopp photo
Performance scenes from “House Mix.” The popular show brought ex-pat Newfoundlander and choreographer Christopher House back home over the weekend and featured snippets from various works during his career.
Rich Blenkinsopp photo Performance scenes from “House Mix.” The popular show brought ex-pat Newfoundlander and choreographer Christopher House back home over the weekend and featured snippets from various works during his career.

Newfoundland was mentioned twice in The Globe and Mail last week, in an article listing “Hottest tickets in Canada: Six things to do across the country.”

“Come From Away” is running in Manitoba, and Toronto Dance Theatre’s “House Mix” stopped into St. John’s Jan. 6, as part of its 11-city, coast-to-coast tour.

“House Mix” brought ex-pat Newfoundlander and choreographer Christopher House back home over the weekend, and with him came a dance performance unlike anything I’ve ever seen at the Arts and Culture Centre.

There’s always a gathering when any Newfoundlander comes home, and this event, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Toronto Dance Theatre, presented by Neighbourhood Dance Works, made for quite the celebration.


“House Mix,” a retrospective presentation of House’s lengthy career and diverse talent, showed the audience snippets of larger works from the past 25 years.

“Martingales” began at promptly 8 p.m., with 12 dancers hitting the stage.

A simple game of catch begins, the ball acting like an extension of the dancers’ bodies, the small sphere flowing gracefully out of one set of hands and into another.

The cast begins running around the dance floor. Are they running to each other? From each other? Going backwards or forwards?

I am reminded of a game of tag — likely the intention, as this piece is focused on “the unpredictable movement of elementary particles and the pleasure of games,” as the program notes.

As the curtains rise on the second act, an excerpt of “Fjeld,” two dancers are illuminated as musical piece by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt begins.
This emotive performance communicates emotion through intense body language. Holding back, letting go, pushing down, lifting up — these friends, or foes, construct and deconstruct relationships.


Next, “Fjeld” continues with a trio; three men evoke intense feelings through movement, all confined to a three-metre radius.

I love any dance performance that involves male intimacy and physical contact in this hyper-masculine society we live in, and this piece, though slow-moving, hit fast and hard, as three bodies entangled and entwined, showed off their impressive strength.

I was continually impressed by the dancers’ strength throughout the show, as we moved on to “Thirteen.”

The four-person piece was accentuated by an orchestra of xylophones and synthesizers, an aural delight accompanying the captivating visuals.

Settling back into our seats after a short intermission, “Echo Dark” began, a contemporary piece that, to me, was the most visually striking of the night.

Awash in a singular spotlight, the five performers created percussion in their combat boots, cloaked by long, layered, flowing skirts.

The mood was accented by an intense piece of dark and haunting music, featuring sharp stringed instruments.
“Echo Dark” was my favourite presentation of the evening.

The “classic kinetic work” “Vena Cava” closed out the show, with the entire cast hitting the stage for this striking performance.

This highly intense piece showcased movements ranging from regal to animalistic, their bodies moving in ways I can barely comprehend, let alone imitate.

The curtains closed on a well-deserved standing ovation. Bravo to the cast and crew.

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