York dancers star in Toronto premiere of acclaimed show ‘Colossus’ » School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
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York dancers star in Toronto premiere of acclaimed show ‘Colossus’

York dancers star in Toronto premiere of acclaimed show ‘Colossus’

Colossus performers lay on floor in circle around single jumping dancer, photo by Mark Gambino courtesy of TO Live credit Mark Gambin

Twenty graduating BFA students from the Department of Dance in York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) preformed in Colossus at the Meridian Arts Centre, alongside dancers from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).

Created by renowned Australian contemporary choreographer Stephanie Lake, Colossus has been touring to pre-professional training institutions around the world since its global premiere in Brisbane in 2018.

Talia Cooper portrait
Talia Cooper

Described as a tribute to collective humanity and the range of emotions inspired by existing alongside others, Colossus explores the delicate balance between intimacy and explosive expressivity and asks important questions about who individuals are within a collective.

For the show’s Toronto premiere, the Stephanie Lake Company will rehearse with York and TMU dancers throughout March, up until the opening night. Remounting the choreography for the local dancers is led by two of Lake’s company members, acting as rehearsal directors, with Lake herself joining rehearsals throughout the week leading up to the premiere.

Colossus is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of before,” says fourth-year AMPD student Talia Cooper. “It is fast and the movements have to be precise. We are also working in collaboration with TMU students who I’ve never worked with before.”

The show’s initial run in Australia garnered resounding praise, with Time Out Melbourne crowning it the number one show of the year. Following its triumphant premiere, the company took Colossus on tour. Instead of travelling with a static cast of dancers, however, Lake uses her platform to promote local emerging artists. In each city, Lake sets the iconic choreography on groups of pre-professional dancers, sharing with them an opportunity to work in an internationally esteemed company. Throughout the pandemic and its resulting travel disruptions, Lake seized the chance to innovate further, turning to web conference calls to teach choreography across borders and eventually directing performances in France, Taiwan and Hong Kong from Australia. To date, Colossus has toured in Oceania, Asia, Europe and North America, with upcoming performances in Africa and South America.

For many York dancers, this performance marks their first foray into the world of professional dance. Cooper says, “the whole process requires us to work in such close proximity to practical strangers, and because of the condensed rehearsal period, we are spending a lot of time together. I love expanding my dance vocabulary by watching my peers move across the space.

Blythe Russell close-up portrait in dance studio
Blythe Russell
Nicole Faithfull close-up portrait in front of conifers
Nicole Faithfull

“Even though it’s not close to being finished, I feel so accomplished,” she adds. “Colossus has been performed so many times worldwide, so we are now a part of the international Colossus community and I cannot wait for people to see it.”

Cooper’s peers agree: “It’s a thrilling, exciting process,” York dancer Blythe Russell says. “It’s so special to be part of a community of dancers from all around the world who have performed Colossus.”

Nicole Faithfull describes similar feelings, “I’m very excited to be a part of such a beautiful piece and big cast.”