(Meghan Eyre cast as The Shaman, a mystic and leader of the native tribe, performing during a dress rehearsal of Windsor Dance eXperience’s production of Journey Into The Amazon at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 30, 2019. Photo above by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.)
A cast of fifty dancers performing exhilarating and spectacular dance routines, some bordering on straight out acrobatics, designed by nine choreographers, and wearing exceptional costumes, meticulously pieced together to reflect the realities of the jungle by costume mistress Roxanne Liebrock, deliver one of the most inspiring blockbuster productions of 2019. Windsor Dance eXperience’s Journey Into The Amazon, with performances Saturday and Sunday, at the Pentastar Theatre in downtown’s Capitol Theatre is truly something beyond magical.
Although the story is simple enough, its success is based solely on the performers’ flawless execution. The tale is about Professor Nathaniel Grey, an explorer and archaeologist, played with considerable credibility by Drake Prosser-Spence with a remarkable spring in his step, stumbling into true danger in the jungles of the famed South American Amazon River.
He is there with his son William, danced with considerable sophistication by Eric Cunningham, and his research assistant and William’s fiancé Julie-Anne Summersbee, a role in which Baylee Desjarlais shows a remarkable gift of dance in which she almost defies gravity. Her story arch includes passionate embraces with William, adding a little romance to an exciting night of entertainment.
While in the jungle, the intrepid explorers find a tomb they can’t resist opening, only to release the very evil Mapinguari. To her role as the ancient creature Simone Orlando consistently exercises incredibly challenging dance routines all with a too scary by half look on her face. She proves her evilness by capturing the two men.
Luckily, Julie-Anne escapes and calls England for help. To the rescue comes Nathaniel’s wife Samantha, played with incredible dance flexibility by Jessica Charron, aided by Governess Olga, the children’s tutor. Eleanor Liebrock does a superb job in a role which, appreciably, often puts her in the spotlight.
Nathaniel’s two daughters, Susanna and Betsy, also arrive. Maeghan Spratt takes on the role of Susanna with great energy while the incredible 11-year old Keaira Groux plays Betsy. Groux has a smile so bright she could easily light up the city and put EnWin out of business. It is such a delight to watch her perform and obvious joy that easily wins the hearts of the audience.
And make no mistake, this is a very complex show of interpretive dance. At times almost the whole cast is on stage. Some of the scenes are highly dramatic and not only involve technically sophisticated maneuvers but also spear fighting. Plotting it out is the excellent work of choreographers under head choreographer Tiffany Wentzell and including Eleanor Liebrock, Drake Prosser-Spence, Michelle Robinet, Jessica Charron, Simone Orlando, Julia Galli, Serena Maniaci and Dalton Hickson.
Some are also dancers while Tiffany Wentzell is also the director. In the program notes she talks of how dedicated the members of her theatrical dance company are, and thanks them for their obvious “passion with us. For not just dancing you’re your feet or your heart but your very gut. Your go get em’ attitude whenever you walked into class was nothing short of inspiring.”
Inspiring is a very appropriate word to describe this cast and the seamless effort they put in to excel in this original work written by Brad Cowell. They all interweave around under the floodlights, performing their roles, at times dancing in precision and at others adding individual flair reflecting the characters they are bringing to life, such as fierce jungle tribes, helpful natives and peculiar animals.
WDX’s Director of Marketing, Anne Margaret Lewsaw, tells Eyes On Windsor, auditions started for the play in January and despite the exceptional work of the dancers, there were only three full-scale runs before the final dress rehearsal. This alone attests to the quality of effort and the visible passion mentioned by Wentzell.
A highly contemporary music score, delicately selected by the choreographers to match their various dance moves, adds another element to a perfect production. Some of the soundtrack is tribal in sound which has the audience swaying in their seats. At other times the music forms the backdrop for jaw dropping scenes including creatures coming right out of a backstage wall, testament to the outstanding set design skills of Nico McIntosh.
In 2003, the non-profit WDX began its work of expanding the fine arts locally and providing local children and young adults with an outlet for their creativity. Since then it has staged over 50 productions at the Capitol Theatre, which it considers as its performance “home,” and on many other stages and in various community events.
Public Performances of Journey into the Amazon are planned for Saturday June 1st at 7pm and Sunday June 2nd at 2:30pm. Ticket prices are: Adults $20 and Youth $15 (under 12) available at www.windsordanceexperience.ca
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.