The Dietrich Group’s Paris 1994/Gallery in Toronto

Paris is in Europe. It is the capital of a country called France.

I learned these many valuable lessons during a family trip in 2006. My memories of France can mostly be summed up as ecstatic jolts in my synaptic cleft. The trip also took us to St. Denis, Giverny, Versailles, Epernay, Reims, Dijon, Annecy, Provence, Chateauneuf de Pap, Lyon, Beaune, Flavigny, and Fontenay. Visiting France allowed me to rediscover the potential of the egg, mandatory wine at all meals and my mothers annoying (yet honest) attempt to communicate with locals by speaking in English with a gauche Quebecois accent.

In 1994 I was nine years young. It was at this age that I realized I was God’s instrument and a pawn in his plan. I would spend afternoons at school re-enacting X-Men and Power Rangers episodes, always demanding to play the role of Storm or Pink Ranger. Top tracks on Dance Mix 94 featured Bizarre Inc’s I’m Gonna Get You and Enigma’s Return to Innocence.

Last winter I found myself sitting atop Darryl A Hoskins cerebellum whilst reviewing his masterpiece The Land of F***. A few weeks ago when I was asked to interview Darryl for his upcoming show I immediately grabbed a quill and parchment and began to make lengthy notations and recommendations for our moment together on the couch.

The interview was filmed on a cool Sunday afternoon just as the sun was stubbornly hiding behind grey clouds. I sat beside Darryl as the cameras were being set up. Mr. Hoskins sat fidgeting beside me like a 13 year old girl readying to have her braces tightened. I found his nervousness to be a bit adorable. He isn’t one to quickly reveal his inner truths. Like most artists, their internal angst and honesty is best seen in their work. While waiting for the cameras to roll Darryl became peckish and instructed his partner to boil him an egg. I thought, what an odd craving for the nerves. We were then served a plate of sliced pineapple. I crossed my legs and thought how funny it was that Darryl was munching on highly acidic Hawaiian fruit while complaining about his weak valve. We would have both been better off sucking on a Saltine.

On April 6th I was invited to Dovercourt House to observe Darryl and his two dancers as they worked through the development of Paris 1994/Gallery. It was intriguing to watch The Choreographer often deep in thought but also candidly playing with his dancers as they curtailed and created each movement.

Last night was the premiere of the show. I found a decent dress shirt and tie and waxed back my hair and plopped a hat on my crown. Running out of my apartment bound for the Harbourfront Centre I couldn’t help but notice how the weather really felt like a warm summer morning. Birds were tweeting (on their phones), the sun was shining and all was good with the world. I switched on Safari Disco Club by French Pop Princess Yelle to set a Parisian mood throughout the duration of my TTC journey south. I arrived at the Enwave Theatre and met up with my friends Jonathan and Mel who would be joining me for the show. We found our seats and plopped ourselves into them. Jonathan who is over six feet tall complained that his legs wacked right into the chair in front of him. He looked uncomfortable. I sat silently with a smile in my heart. Short people never have these problems.

The triple Dora-Award-nominated show takes the physicality of dance into a space of interactive play where two lovers move from the lull of their shared history to the immediacy of the present in a rumination of longing, desire and our reconstructed pasts. Paris 1994/Gallery explores memory through the reflection of time, looking at how memory is a constantly changing perspective through highlighted moments between lovers. Set in an arena similar to an art gallery, the players become extensions in this installation that explores time and space.

I have now reviewed several contemporary dance, theatre, opera and ballet performances. Recently when sitting in the audience at The Wooster Group’s Version of Tennessee Williams’ Vieux Carre I found myself really irritable as I had not brought a pen and pad to take notes of my impressions during the performance. I made a promise to myself that I would experiment with this form of dictation in the dark when I experienced Darryl’s Paris 1994/Gallery. Just before the show started I pulled out a pen and tiny pad of paper. Over the course of the next hour I made a point of taking detailed notes which showcase the action on stage and how certain elements of the show impacted me. Rather than going into a long winded commentary about Paris, 1994 and the Gallery (/) I thought it would be most interesting to take pictures of my notes and showcase them at the end of the photo gallery here. I apologize for the sometimes illegible hand writing. I was sitting in the dark, vigorously fondling parchment and encouraging my pen to unravel in real time.

After the show the lobby filled with champagne glasses and sweet treats from our favourite West End French connection, Nadege. The shows premiere in many ways was a hallmark for me. Several months ago I had planned a five week press trip of Europe around Darryl’s show. I stood quietly alone staring out at into the lobby: Darryl spoke to an audience of enthusiastic fans, his two dancers stood with grins on their faces and a Jonathan and Mel  offered up their impressions of the show for the World Stage blog. I surveyed the scene in contemplation. I would be leaving this lovely city, these lovely people for a fantastical journey across some of the most stunning landscapes the world has to offer. Darryl’s show was a great success. I said my goodbye’s: hugs, kiss kiss. On the subway bound for my little shoebox of an apartment I smiled for myself for the first time too. In 1994 when Darryl visited Paris it became a powerful junction and memory in his timeline. So much so that he created an inspirational work for the rest of the world to tap into. While I wasn’t going to be visiting Paris anytime soon I was finally very present (and pleasant) to the idea that Stockholm and Helsinki were calling my name.

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