Joshua Beamish in Concerto.

Joshua Beamish in Concerto. © Daniel Robinson.

The Roundhouse Performance Centre, Vancouver – January 29, 2016

What a gem, to see a full evening of a choreographer’s works  – a chance to get to know his or her aesthetic through several pieces and the different dancers who interpret them.  Gala 2016, presented by MOVE: the company, showed 24 short pieces, all premieres, choreographed by two of Vancouver’s prominent dance artists and choreographers – Joshua Beamish and Heather Dotto.  The pieces were created specifically for the pre-professional dancers and students who performed this evening.

Beamish, the founder and artistic director of MOVE: the company, has also made quite a name for himself abroad, having created works for dancers from companies including The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet and the Martha Graham Dance Company.  He opened the show performing an excerpt of his solo, Concerto, set to music by Bach.  The piece exhibited many of the gestures that have become Beamish’s signature – a lift of the elbow that prompts a swivel in the hips, which opens into an arch in the back – isolations that linked to form articulate phrases moving fluidly through his body, which, in this piece, showed a deliberate casualness and playfulness.  In the other pieces he created for tonight’s program, mainly solos, some en pointe, Beamish continues his favour for Baroque music and strings compositions, but also sets several pieces to contemporary classical music expressed through a more contemporary, rather than ballet, dance vocabulary.  The dancers’ own interpretations of Beamish’s vocabulary found new nuances to his aesthetic and brought forth the significance of a dancer’s expression to any piece of choreography.

Dotto’s aesthetic is quite different from Beamish’s, and the refreshing contrast highlighted the qualities of both.  Dotto’s duets and group ensembles evoked compassion and warmth, through phrases of lifts and holds, and of limbs interlocking that expressed an intimate connectivity between the dancers.  Beyond the physical expression, I believed the emotions conveyed were truly felt by the dancers themselves, and that made each of the pieces ever more touching.

The program ended with an ensemble piece by Beamish, performed by 17 dancers of the Coastal City Ballet.  The girls were en pointe, dressed in red leotards, and the boys, in red long sleeved knit shirts and grey leggings (incidentally, the colours of the logo of MOVE: the company).   Beamish said that this piece was heavily influenced by George Balanchine’s neo-classical style, made famous by the New York City Ballet, and reminded me of Balanchine’s ‘Black and White’ ballets.  Perhaps we can call this one a Beamish ‘Red and Grey’?

Tonight’s performers have many special moments to look forward to, in their pursuit of dance.  What a cherished opportunity it must be for them, at this early stage, to already say they have danced a piece by Joshua Beamish, or Heather Dotto.