Review: I Am An Animal (The Dietrich Group)

Playing at the Citadel Theatre in Toronto, The Dietrich Group’s powerful dance production might move you to tears.

I like to try and bring guests with me who don’t get to see dance shows that frequently. Yet while sitting in the Citadel Theatre waiting for The Dietrich Group‘s I Am An Animal to start I was a little nervous of what my guest would think. When we turned to each other at the end of the show, any concerns I had about her not enjoying the evening disappeared.

As a dancer there are two thoughts that always pass through my head during shows I really like: “I want to dance like that!” and “How did they go about making this piece?” There are also two things that make me unhappy to see on stage: elements added solely for their shock value and movement with weak thematic content. I am happy to report that the first two thoughts frequently passed through my mind during I Am An Animal, and the latter was not once a concern.

From the moment that Emily Law raised her arms above her head and began to circle her wrists I was hooked. I wanted to know why there was a garden of lettuce in front of me, I wanted to know why sneakers were sitting in the corner, and most of all, I wanted to get up and dance with these five phenomenal performers.

When Artistic Director D.A. Hoskins wrote in his program notes that I Am An Animal began out of the desire to engage with exceptional young dancers, he was not joking. All five performers were engaging, powerful and unique. Each time one of them was the central focus of an exchange they would have me convinced that they were my favorite. Then the next person would step forward and I couldn’t make up my mind.

This is not to say that the dancers were in any way competing with one another. If anything, there seemed to be a great sense of camaraderie and support between the cast members. They were all simply such powerful individuals that you could not justly compare them to one another.

D.A. Hoskins is known for creating work which pushes boundaries. As a frequent dance audience member it is why I am such a fan of his work. He is avant-garde because that is his natural aesthetic, not simply because he wants to be different. I think that that is why audience members not accustomed to his creative style can still appreciate and enjoy his work.

My guest did jokingly state that there was a lot of rolling on the floor, but she then went on to say that it was the first time that a dance work had moved her to tears. The themes were explored  with an innovative approach, yet without becoming unrecognizable and hard to follow.

Part of me wants to go on and on about I Am An Animal and tell you every intricate detail of what I saw, heard, and felt. Yet, I’d rather you just go and see it for yourself. Expect to laugh (I actually strongly encourage it), expect to potentially feel uncomfortable, but also expect to feel strongly moved and, if anything, expect the unexpected.


– I Am An Animal is playing at the Citadel Theatre (304 Parliament St) until September 29, 2012.

– Performances run September 26 to 29th at 8pm.

– Tickets are $20.

– Tickets are available online.


photo of  Fabien Piche, Emily Law, Mariana Medellin-Meinke, and  Paul Charbonneau by Jeremy Mimnagh.