Wintersong: Dances for a Sacred Season is a celebration of both dance and the North’s winter solstice, a time of introspection as the nights grow longer and we prepare for the cold weather ahead. Each individual piece spoke to an aspect of the solstice from the perspective of the choreographer, beautifully performed by the young dancers. The 2023 WinterSong marks the 35th anniversary of CCDT’s beautiful Solstice tradition, balancing the lightness with the dark and providing a contemplative and ultimately celebratory sendoff into the Winter Season. I had the pleasure of bringing my family to the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre’s annual presentation of WinterSong: dances for a sacred season which was presented at the Harbourfront Centre December 8, 9, and 10th under the artistic direction of Deborah Lundmark showcasing works by Santee Smith, Jera Wolf, Colin Connor, Carol Anderson and a world premiere by Hanna Kiel.
Beginning with Smith’s “Star Dreamer” (2011), an eloquent piece grounded in Santee Smith’s personal style, accompanied by the music of Cris Derkson and costumes by Elaine Redding. The work depicts the mythology of Iroquois Midwinter ceremonies, “Star Dreamer” tells the story of Pleiades, but in this version Shooting Star dreams the Seven dancers into existence where they transform into the brightest stars in the sky while he falls back to Earth.
Following “Star Dreamer” was a work by Jera Wolfe entitled “Embers” (2019), this moody and darkly lit piece recalls Wolfe’s memories of cold Winnipeg winters and the close knit community gathering that would result to survive the harshness of the winter. Music: Luke Howard, Lior, Shards. Costumes: Krista Dowson.
The final performance of the first half was Colin Connor’s “Thaw” (2022), an ode to the end of Winter transitioning into Spring and a metaphor for the dancers themselves transitioning from the isolated period of the pandemic to moving together once again. Music: Patrick Grant, “Fields Amaze”. Costumes: Krista Dowson.
We returned after intermission to two ruckus and completely delightful works. The first being Hanna Kiel’s Word Premiere of “A Sonata of Shadows” (2023), a high energy piece that borrows from many, sometimes irreconcilable, forms that as a whole presented surprising moments and a quirky cohesiveness. The work focuses on the resilience developed while exploring the complex emotions of darkness, ending with a powerful demonstration of the strength developed through the hard times. Music: Adam Cambell. Costumes: Aaliyah Sundar
Equal in energy but clearer in spirit and message was the final act, Carol Anderson’s luminescent “Nowell Sing We” (1988). Set to medieval carols arranged by Kirk Elliott, Anderson’s “Nowell Sing We” was created for the first WinterSong staged in 1988 and performed annually by every CCDT company member since, this piece is imbued with the history of the company as well as being a perfect snapshot of Modern Dance of the 1980’s. The piece is joyful, fast paced and buoyant, encapsulating the sense of celebration, community and resiliency featured in different ways in the earlier pieces. Costumes: Katharine Mallinson