On Being Prepared/Psychic Choreography (Susie Burpee/Anandam Dancetheatre) 2015 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Psychic Choreography

The connection between the performing body, music, sound, and mind takes centre stage at the 2015 Toronto SummerWorks Festival double bill On Being Prepared and Psychic Choreography playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace.

Susie Burpee’s On Being Prepared is “part essay, part dance,” exploring prepared instrumentation. Framed by a funny story about a BBQ where she learned about changing an instrument’s sound by using objects, Burpee attempts to recreate the idea with her body.

I quite liked On Being Prepared but the idea behind the work and the actual performance didn’t quite mesh that well for me. Initially, as she tells her story, Burpee uses several rolls of tin-foil to construct an elaborate dress and headdress onstage. She tries to move about in it, holding it all together but ultimately jettisons the outfit in order to dance.

By settling on a conventional dance, I thought it pretty much dismissed the narrative and argument she’d set up originally. That doesn’t mean that the individual components of the show are bad. Burpee’s story is comical, the tin-foil costume is genuinely neat, and her movement is absolutely wonderful to watch. I just thought that it didn’t come together as a whole.

Where On Being Prepared failed in its premise, Psychic Choreography succeeds as an idea-driven dance/performance that uses the theme of psychic connections to deliver a hilarious and beautiful performance.

Brandy Leary and Meryeum Alaoui developed the choreography separately, exchanging only e-mails to map out the show. Thus what we get to see is a disjointed series of segments described by the performers as ‘The Sacrificial Lamb,’ a modified version of The Sacrificial Lamb, Psychic Q&A, and the ‘Dancy Dance.’

While I’d argue Psychic Choreography is actually more performance art than dance, it’s honestly got something for everyone. Leary and Alaoui take turns in the spotlight, their respective talents easily highlighted. For example, Leary has a section where she uses the aerial rope for a beautiful little moment of eerie suspension. In contrast, Alaoui’s vocal improvisation and her incredible movement frame several of the speaking segments, constantly drawing the eye and the ear.

And together they are hilarious, using the spoken segments to deliver some unexpected comments on their work.

Overall both Psychic Choreography and On Being Prepared are unexpected. Where one doesn’t quite work, the other more than makes up for it.


  • Psychic Choreography and On Being Prepared plays until August 15th at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)
    Friday August 14th          7:00 PM
    Saturday August 15th     2:00 PM
  • Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at summerworks.ca, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

Photo of Psychic Choreography by Nitin Dilawri