Harbourfront Centre presents a futuristic and immersive dance experience in Toronto
As I got off the streetcar at Harbourfront Centre to see Lot X, a co-production with DanceWorks, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Lot X is choreographed by Heidi Strauss of adelheid and is part of the Torque contemporary dance series, so I thought it would be a dance performance. But I’d been warned to dress for the weather, be prepared to move, and to download an augmented reality app which would add another layer to my experience. We were ready for anything. Fortunately, the seemingly unrelenting rain and drizzle that has been May in Toronto held off for the evening. And Lot X did in fact deliver a little bit of everything. Some parts really did not work for me, but others were innovative and hauntingly beautiful.
Upon arrival, we gathered in the lobby of the main Harbourfront building. We used our app to check in and were assigned a group number. After milling around for a while, my phone buzzed with a message telling us to head outside. There we were greeted by seven dancers dressed like beekeepers or maybe fencers donning mesh masks.
This is where things got confusing. I think we were supposed to be in a post-apocalyptic world but it wasn’t clear to me. We were told to divide up according to our group numbers and taught some code words or lingo by a robotic disembodied voice. “X-4” meant “okay” and “X-9” meant “repeat.” Honestly, I can’t remember the rest and it didn’t really matter.
If it seems like it’s taking a long time for me to talk about the dancing, you’re right. That’s because there was an awful lot of set up before we got to any dancing. Eventually we were lead down the stairs into the parking garage. The dancers moved and climbed and jumped over and around a set of metal frames with what seemed like grow lights for crossbars at the base of an air shaft. I’m not sure what it meant, but it was a cool space to set a performance in.
For me, the most successful part of the performance came next as we moved into the Harbourfront Theatre in the Power Plant building. The audience was seated around the space in the upper levels while the dancers performed below. The movement was fairly traditional modern dance with lots of contractions and body rolls set to an electronic score. Much of the time the dancers were on the floor. I thought these sections were the most interesting.
My favourite aspect was the use of video, which was among the most engaging I’ve seen in a dance performance. The floor was used as a screen. Different images or patterns were projected on it as the dancers moved across. Sometimes one of the dancers would lie under a camera causing an enlarged image of them to underlie the movement. I particularly liked a section where the dancers seemed to be climbing across the image on the floor, moving from foothold to foothold across edges or wires.
All in all, I thought Lot X was a mixed bag. I liked the use of the different spaces around Harbourfront. I liked being up close to the dancers and feeling part of the action. But I found the special lingo and techno-futurist premise confusing and unnecessary. It seemed like there was a message I was supposed to be taking away, but I just didn’t get it. Once the dancing started though, I was captivated.
- Lot X is playing at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West) until June 2, 2019
- Performances run Wednesday – Sunday at 8:00 pm
- Tickets are $20-$35 and are available here or by calling 416-973-4000
- The event takes place both inside and outside and runs rain or shine.
- There are both seated and unseated performance zones and there is a fair bit of walking. Accessible options are available.
- The Lot X app is available for download for iPhone users, but I did not find it necessary
Photo of Alana Elmer, Nimikii Couchie, Naishi Wang, and Lukas Malkowski by Jeremy Mimnagh