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Island Fringe Festival:
Ceilidh on the Coast and Hikari

Review by Sean McQuaid

Your torpid typist danced in his prehistoric preteen days. Trained in tap but lacking the terpsichorean drive to stick with it, I ultimately evolved into an eerily lifelike adult with the nimble grace of a woolly mammoth, post-tar pit. Retaining a fondness for footwork regardless, I was intrigued to see two different dance shows in this year’s Island Fringe Festival. 

The most traditional of the two shows was Ceilidh on the Coast staged at Confederation Landing by Reel Talent School of Dance, a step-dancing showcase featuring Reel Talent’s director Jennifer Carson and some of her star pupils plus occasional audience participation. 

Reel Talent’s a bright, energetic group with commendable focus (scarcely dented by loudly competing musical performers from the nearby Peakes Wharf stage), offering upbeat, animated step-dancing, some of it reworked for their small Fringe troupe from choreography designed for larger Reel rosters. 

The Reel gang largely dances to recorded music but they also provide some of their own, notably original tunes penned by the company’s singer/guitarist/dancer Olivia Blacquiere. This adds welcome variety and uniqueness to an otherwise fairly conventional step show. 

Nowhere near conventional is Hikari, produced by Mexico City company Komorebi. In fact the two dance shows are literally as different as night and day, Ceilidh being a sunny afternoon affair while the darkly enigmatic Hikari is produced in shadowy outdoor park Rochford Square as night falls. 

The venue suits Hikari in some ways, with the shifting leafy shadows of nearby trees adding layers of organic atmosphere, but not every aspect of the show works well here. Billed as a triptych about darkness vs. light, the show starts with performer/choreographer Dora Hagerman literally dancing in a dark outfit covered by built-in lights. Promotional photographs of past performances suggest a strikingly impressionistic effect of disembodied streaks of light in darkness, but Hagerman is too clearly visible in the park’s twilight for this gimmick to be fully successful. 

The last two thirds of the triptych are more effective, all of it danced in front of various screen projections while music plays, including lots of loud, harsh industrial guitar courtesy of musician/composer Héctor Murrieta. 

Phase two of the dance is intentionally difficult to watch — partly due to Murrieta’s sonic assault and a series of creepy images on the screen, but mostly because of a monstrously transformed Hagerman. Garbed in a mummy-wrapped, hunch-backed, grotesquely masked outfit, a bloodily red-lit Hagerman staggers and writhes and growls her way through a genuinely disturbing routine that’s pure nightmare fuel. 

Haberman’s third dance and final metamorphosis is a welcome palate cleanser as she shifts into a vaguely butterfly–winged costume for a closing routine that is still passionately intense, but more smooth and lyrical. Hikari ends as it began, puzzling and strange and not always satisfying, but daring, inventive and visually and emotionally memorable.

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