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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Dance review: 4OUR is a visually evocative piece

As you entered the Faris Family Studio at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, four white fabric costumes/ sculptures/ masks, designed by Alice Mansell, were already hanging above the stage. These pieces of fabric started my journey of imagination.

As the dance played out, four dancers (Gioconda Barbuto, Heather Dotto, Kevin Tookey and Joe Laughlin) played with these props, constantly changing the scenography and the images they evoked. The dancers shaped the stage with their bodies, almost literally crafting the space. They were drawing lines, shapes, adding small details with their fingers as if the space had become tangible and they could actually transformed the shape of it.

While the transitions between movements were not always well defined, some appearing out of nowhere, the magic of the visual effects designed by Eric Chad, and the lights by James Proudfoo, were so stunning that they helped fill the gap.

One of the most surrealistic moments took place as Barbuto was dancing, clad in white fabric/dress, on top of a small table. The solo was characterized by small turns of the entire body, as if she was a ballerina in a music box. The scene was reminiscent of the Queen of Hearts of Alice in Wonderland, but also of a sea creature, perhaps a jellyfish, due to soundscape of waves that played.

The final scene was visually stunning. As Dotto, Tookey and Laughlin disappeared in the darkness, Barbuto danced a solo in the middle of the stage. Eventually, she disappeared as well, almost swallowed by the raindrops of lights. The lights changed the perception, transforming the space with an incredible effect that modified – even if it was only a visual effect – the proximity between the dancers’ bodies and the audience.

According to the program notes, 4OUR is a piece about memory and thanks to the wide variety of images that the dancers – strongly supported by the costumes, visuals and lights – there were many opportunities for each audience member to choose their own memories to invoke.

4OUR choreographed by Joe Laughlin. A Joe Ink production. No further performances currently scheduled. Visit for more information.

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