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Jack Anderson

The Clarities of Christopher House

Toronto Dance Theater: "Timecode Break"
Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, Chelsea
January 29-February 3, 2008
Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.,

Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., $40, 20 Sunday evening
Tickets: (212) 242-0800 or www.joyce.org
Reviewed by Jack Anderson Feb. 1, 2008

There were times when Steve Lucas's lighting was intentionally shadowy, and there were moments when Nico Stagias's video designs were deliberately blurry. Nevertheless, a concern for clarity dominated Christopher House's "Timecode Break," a mixed-media production for his Toronto Dance Theater. Long before it was over, the 65-minute work had become a celebration of lucidity in which chaos always gave birth to clear forms.

"Timecode Break" opened with its 12 dancers in loose, nondescript, and never distracting costumes by Jeremy Laing standing, looking alert as the lights gradually brightened and Phil Strong's taped score filled with cheeping, almost birdlike, sounds. This was, in effect, a dawn, and House's choreographic day got underway with calm unhurried movements that gave the audience lots of time to gaze while amorphous cloudlike and watery shapes floated across a screen at the back of the stage.

The action grew livelier as dancers rose and fell, rushed forward and backward, stamped at the floor and slapped their sides. Yet these movements, though quick and sharp, never seemed frantic, and one sequence ended with the dancers seated like Buddhas. The blurred video images gave way to clear views of the dancers moving, including close-ups of faces with blinking eyes. Sometimes the video dancers made odd facial expressions, but presumably as signs of playfulness and not distress.

In the past, House's weakest choreography has tended to be very cool and dry, and the impatient could argue that little happened in "Timecode Break." But if you were willing to keep watching, you were rewarded with visual pleasures. Dancers on stage often seemed in kinetic dialogue with their on-screen counterparts, repeating, reversing, or changing the tempos of their movements. Yet the groups never appeared to be in conflict, the two-dimensional images and the three-dimensional live bodies always complementing one another until everyone just vanished into thin air.

Through live action and video, House was able to look at, and then show us, his dancers in various ways, making every step luminous and distinctly worth watching.

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