The Nine Brains of the Human Mind / those, on the surface (The School of Toronto Dance Theatre) 2019 SummerWorks Review

Emerging choreographers take the SummerWorks stage with a double bill of modern/contemporary dance. The Nine Brains of the Human Mind and those, on the surface are choreographed by Kari Labrentz and Tanveer Alam and produced/danced by The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. These work-in-process pieces are part of the SummerWorks Lab programming.

those, on the surface, choreographed by Kari Labrentz in collaboration with the dancers opens the show, playing with altered identities based on diverging perception.

The six dancers dress in stiff buttoned-up blouses tucked into trousers, all in muted dark colours. The costumes portray a level of androgyny or slight indifference between performers, perfectly suited to the subject matter.

A solo dancer begins performing fluid and full-bodied movement, she is joined by the rest of the cast who perform a gesture sequence, all in their own timing. The performers are alone yet together in the space, and grow to acknowledge each other more throughout the work.

The gesture sequence floats in and out of the choreography, with energetic sequences and patterns in-between. Although overall a beautiful start to a creation, my only hope would be for the piece to build more from beginning to end as it remained within a middle-ground level of energy.

The Nine Brains of the Human Mind choreographed by Tanveer Alam in collaboration with the dancers plays with Kathak, a classical Indian dance form with contemporary trained dancers. Alam works with Navarasa, the concept of nine human emotions, with a specific interest in Karuna rasa, the expression of sadness, compassion in its highest form.

The movement is clear, personal and focused. Weaving walks and fluid sways weighed from the hips are slow yet thoughtful. The choreography is beautifully structured in form and patterning from beginning to end.  Shifting formations are pleasant to the eye, while the choreography is emotional in feel. I enjoyed the use of contemporary trained dancers with the challenge of the Kathak inspired choreography.

The show ends with a talkback with the young and anxious choreographers. It is easy to see how grateful they are for the experience. Overall the works are terrific starting points for both emerging artists. I cannot wait to see more from both in the future. I hope SummerWorks continues to bring fresh faces in choreography to the festival for years to come.

This review is a snapshot of the first performance of a work-in-progress. The production is one of several pieces at the festival presented as part of the SummerWorks Lab programming introduced in 2018. The participants in SW Lab are still in the development process and will continue to evolve throughout the festival.


The Nine Brains of the Human Mind and those, on the surface is playing at the Franco Boni Theatre in The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West).


  • Monday August 12th 8:45pm – 9:30pm
  • Thursday August 15th 6:00pm – 6:45pm
  • Sunday August 18th 1:45pm – 2:30pm

Warnings: Fog/Haze.

Information on Tickets and Passes:

SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. 

Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before show time and can be purchased as follows: Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page; In person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12pm-8pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket. Any remaining tickets will be made available for sale at the performance venue starting 1 hour before show time. Venue box offices accept cash only.

Money saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.

Photo provided by company.