Contemporary dance artists Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie have chosen works by James Kudelka for their first appearance at Toronto's Fleck Dance Theatre, part of a process of putting down roots in the city.
Kudelka, beloved as a choreographer for the National Ballet of Canada, is at his most contemporary in these dances, blending live music with choreography commissioned for the company.
"I think there's great interest in what Kudelka is doing now in Toronto," Laurence Lemieux said Wednesday in an interview with CBC News. "He's one of our greatest choreographers."
Lemieux and partner Bill Coleman moved their dance company headquarters from Montreal two years ago, though they still maintain a Montreal studio.
"It gave us a chance to reconnect with the dance community here," said Lemieux, who was with Toronto Dance Theatre before forming the company with her husband in 2000 in Montreal.
Their son had been accepted at the National Ballet School and they felt they wanted to expand their own horizons as dancers.
But the real attraction was the feeling of a cultural renaissance in Toronto, and the multiculturalism of the community where they live and work, she said.
Transformed building in Regent Park
That community is Regent Park, an area once notorious among Torontonians for its crime rate and concentration of social housing.
Regent Park's image is changing as the neighbourhood is redeveloped with a mix of upmarket and low-income housing, and the arts could be part of that change, Coleman said.
He sits on an advisory board that is working with the redevelopment team, which includes Daniels Corp. and Toronto Social Housing.
"There is potential for a cultural program to play a role," he said. "You have to have a bold vision if you work in the arts and meld that with realistic knowledge about the community."
Coleman Lemieux took over a former Salvation Army building in the area and installed sprung wood floors for its dancers. That attracted attention from residents, who are curious about a dance company in their neighbourhood.
The dance company also performed at a ground-breaking for reconstruction of one of the mixed-use residences this July.
Lemieux said the area was affordable for a dance company starting out in a new city.
Now the company hopes to parlay that growing sense of community into a bigger presence on the city's dance scene with a program that involves four works by Kudelka.
She's known Kudelka since she was in training with the School of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montreal and worked with him at Toronto Dance Theatre.
The dance company has toured programs based on his choreography to Brazil and Europe, selling out programs because of his reputation.
The performance of Living Dances, Nov. 4 at the Fleck Dance Theatre includes the world premiere of Beautiful Movie, in which Coleman dances to music by a seven-piece ensemble, accompanied by counter-tenor Daniel Taylor.
The collection includes contemporary works for which Kudelka is not as well-known, including In Paradisum, Coleman Lemieux's signature work and Soudain, l'hiver dernier, dating from 1987.
Laurence Lemieux will dance the solo piece See #1 (2007), receiving its Toronto premiere, to violin accompaniment.
Living Dances: An Evening of Contemporary Kudelka runs Nov. 4 to Nov. 7 at the Fleck Dance Theatre.