Nathalie Bonjour

Looking Ahead

Brian Medina

Joe Szekeres

For someone like myself who has never had any formal training or background education in dance, why is it important to reach out to those of us who have no expertise in this area?

Director of Performing Arts at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre Nathalie Bonjour was grateful to have a Zoom call with me where she was eagerly willing to engage in such a conversation. Her response regarding those audience members who have no training in dance:

“I don’t think you need to have any background or academic understanding of dance especially in this [upcoming] piece of [Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart L-E-V Israel]. The music is very strong in this piece so audiences will be drawn in right away as is the lighting. This is a piece where audiences must let themselves be carried on the journey. The movement is very particular, very unique. There’s an energy
as there is a tension in wanting to move forward but there is an extension back.”

Bonjour emphasized clearly that it is the emotion and the tableaux on stage that speaks to audiences, and one doesn’t have to have any background or training to experience and feel that. I agree with her on this account as those dance productions that I have had the opportunity to watch, to listen, to hear have spoken to me on many levels.

The Canadian premiere of Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart L-E-V Israel opens March 3 and plays again March 5, 2022 at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. It will play in New York first before it opens here. Choreographed by Co-Artistic Director of L-E-V Israel’s Sharon Eyal this production opens Torque, Harbourfront’s international contemporary dance series. From a press release I received, Ms. Bonjour states that Journey: “invites us on an exhilarating journey through the extreme states of the heart, from anguish and fervour to passion and rage. It is a universal narrative, and we can all intimately relate to L-E-V’s vulnerable study on heartbreak.” Additionally, stunning costumes for the dancers, designed by Christian Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri, emblazoned with one bright red bleeding heart will emphasize the sensuality and the emotion of the work.

Bonjour spoke candidly and compassionately about the heartbreak for all those involved in the art of dance as the community has suffered just as all professional artists have experienced. But with the dialogue of Black Lives Matter and Indigenous residential schools, the truth, and their creators and creations, the dance community has become stronger in the last two years.

Harbourfront Centre has been creative in finding ways to get through and keep going these last two years. The company had to learn how to become video producers and come together as presenters and learn how to support artists in other ways creatively. Like many of the professional performing arts companies, Bonjour recognized how programming changed at Harbourfront. There were a number of live streams and pre-recorded shows along with a lot of digital experiences in working with AR and VR in person. Outdoor installations and projections also filled the void so audiences from the last two years could still come down to the Harbourfront and remember there is a performing arts Centre there.

Bonjour supervised The Junior Festival and The Summer Music in the Garden. Some of these editions were done online completely during the first summer of the pandemic. In the second year, Bonjour recognized how people have been on screens a lot and how could Harbourfront do something different? There was investment in commissions of works that could be seen later when Harbourfront re-opens. The Toronto International Festival for Authors has done two editions fully online.

When theatres reopened but not to the general public, there were production residencies at Harbourfront for artists to continue working on their shows. As a larger organization in the ecosystem of the performing arts, Bonjour wanted to know how Harbourfront could help other organizations so when everyone goes back there are those smaller presenters as well. It followed through with a financial partnering with The Citadel where there was support of three solos by female choreographers. In August, Harbourfront welcomed the National Ballet of Canada as an outreach and it was so successful that Harbourfront will be doing it again. On the national level, Bonjour was part of an alliance that was created with other dance presenters - the NAC Dance Department, Danse Danse in Montreal and Dance House in Vancouver - to start an initiative called Digidance.

In concluding our conversation, Nathalie and I spoke about how it is the anticipation in watching dancers move and intertwine with each other that makes dance productions visually moving for me. I have seen some Fall for Dance Toronto productions over the last couple of years and have been captivated by the dance artists’ electric synchronicity with each other. I’m looking forward to experiencing what Bonjour describes for Journey as a universal narrative on heartbreak since we’ve all been there at one time in our lives.

I hope you will also join this journey.

Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart L-E-V Israel performs live March 3 and 5 at 7:30 pm at The Fleck Dance Theatre, Queen’s Quay Terminal 3rd Floor, 207 Queen’s Quay West. Suggested ticket prices are $20 - $ 95, Pay What You Wish. Ticket link and website: www.harbourfrontcentre.com.

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