Review: 8 minutes 17 seconds (Blue Ceiling dance)

What would you do if you only had 8 minutes 17 seconds? Blue Ceiling dance poses this question in its science-infused dance work presented in the Franco Boni Theatre in The Theatre Centre. It is the exact amount of time it takes for light to travel from the sun to the earth. It is how much time we would have if the sun were to die.

Conceived and co-choreographed by Lucy Rupert, the evening consists of twelve performers using dance to explore a range of emotions and responses to this time constraint, with input from local physicists.

Each dancer milks their movement in beautiful ways. Small details of extended fingers to strong fists are felt through every inch of the dancers’ bodies. The performers effortlessly float and wave through their extremities in the modern/contemporary choreography.

On the surface, it may be tempting to assume that what Rupert has conceived of is a selection of presentations of different dances, by different choreographers and different dancers – unconnected except by theme.  But that is not the case here. Rupert has made sure the smaller works add together to make a whole performance.

Rather than your regular blackout, transitions between pieces are full of meaningful movement sequences. The cast works together to morph the space into the feel needed for the next piece.

An unexpected addition to the piece is Toronto actor Hume Baugh, who is a part of the otherwise dance-based cast. He performs in a duet with the gorgeous dancer Michael Caldwell, which was one of my favourite moments of the night. As Baugh utters a compelling monologue – which he wrote – about a ‘blaze in our lungs,’ Caldwell enacts its powerful imagery.

A trio performed by Emma Kerson, Jane-Alison McKinney and Lucy Rupert has no sound other than the breath of its dancers and the click of their heeled boots hitting the floor. The piece begins in black; yet, the audience can track where the performers are in the space based on the sound of their walk.

When the lights fade in, we only see the legs of the performers before one drops to the floor to initiate the choreography. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting design is perfect for the overall work, which heavily relies on almost darkness.

Although I would not have noticed the impressive sound concept without the press release, I love how astrophysicist Matt Russo created one of the compositions. He developed the music by compressing and expanding the sounds created by the solar system based on the Black Widow Pulsar.

 While the death of the sun can be a dark and daunting thought, it proved to be an interesting theme for an interesting work. I’m happy that Blue Ceiling dance could investigate such a topic through dance.


  • 8 minutes 17 seconds is playing until Sunday, January 26, 2020, at The Theatre Centre’s Franco Boni Theatre (1115 Queen Street West).
  • Shows run Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, with an additional matinee on Sundays at 2:30pm.
  • Ticket prices range from $25 – $30, with PWYC option for the Sunday matinee show.
  • Tickets are available online or at the door.

Photo of Lucy Rupert and by John Lauener.