24 minutes


Ann Southam


Costume Designer:

Astrid Janson


Set Designer:
Ken Mimura


Lighting Designer:
Ron Snippe after John Hughes


Premiere Date:
October 3, 1972, Toronto Dance Theatre


Premiere Location:
St. Lawrence Centre, Toronto


Boatman -- David Earle; Warrior -- Barry Smith; Priest -- Amelia Itcush; Woman -- Helen Jones

Summary Note

With film sequences by Ken Mimura, this work was conceived in collaboration with Mimura. An allegorical folk tale for four dancers in a Japanese style. The Boatman represents Fate and the other three characters represent the three aspects of each man; the warrior is the mind, the woman is the emotions and the priest the spirit.

Review by Canadian Press

Major opening night number was Boat, River, Moon, choreographed by Earle to electronic music composed by Ann Southam and brought to life at the electronic studio of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Played before and behind a plastic curtain on which shadowy swirls are projected, the dance is a moving saga of life, death and resurrection not easily explained. It might have been a primordial rite of spring, the river Styx, or Hiroshima.

-- The Globe and Mail, November 17, 1972


Boat, River, Moon was part of Toronto Dance Theatre's 25th Anniversary Repertoire for its 1993/94 season. The decision to include this work is stated in the program as follows: Boat, River, Moon is the symbolic Earle and this piece is his first turning of consciousness to the East and the rituals of Japan, a subject matter which has increasingly dominated his later works. “I call this my classic because I managed to say the most by the most economical means. It's a large theme and a small cast and I polished the movement until every shape and every detail was perfect. What makes the piece particularly satisfying is that I made up my own myth about the boatman and his three passengers. Long after the fact, though, I realized that the seed of Boat, River, Moon was inspired by Kurosawa's film Rashomon and its depiction of differing perceptions.”

Interview with David Earle, July 22, 2002

Boat, River, Moon is the first myth I had written. I thought originally of doing the piece with a cast of men as in traditional Japanese theatre, but I'm glad I didn't because Helen Jones was fabulous and contributed a great deal to the creation of her role as The Woman. She was electrifying on stage. I work occasionally with Helen today. She has a genius and a phenomenal instrument -- which is still evident. She has always been a highly inventive and passionate dancer and was one of the first 'stars' in TDT to have her own following.

Boat, River, Moon: The Story

Through a spiralling image the boat advances as if from infinity, with three passengers and the Boatman with his pole. The Boatman disembarks and dances a solo describing the three characters that his passengers will assume. A tremendous crash, the boat capsizes and then darkness. When the light returns, bodies litter the stage around the boat as though all were killed. One by one they resurrect, each with a solo that defines his or her character. The Warrior -- heroic. The Woman -- narcissistic and sensuous. The Priest -- a neutral figure.

When The Woman lures The Warrior behind the boat, The Priest begins to tease and annoy them. A fight ensues between The Warrior and The Priest. To assist The Warrior, The Woman gives him The Boatman's pole. The Warrior hits The Priest in the eyes, blinding and, perchance, killing him. The Woman and The Warrior sneak away and go to sleep.

In the next scene the boat has been overturned into the shape of a bridge. The Woman wakes convinced that The Priest is after them. She runs to the bridge but is distracted by her comely image in the water beneath. The image is, in reality, The Boatman who has been ostensibly dead since the shipwreck and he imitates her movements. Entranced by her image, The Woman leans toward the water and The Boatman pulls her into the river where she drowns. The Boatman then turns on the unarmed Warrior, overpowering and murdering him with an invisible pole. Each character dies in the definition of his or her weakness -- The Warrior by cruelty and power, The Woman through her vanity. The Boatman now turns his attention to the blind Priest who is using the pole to guide his way. Sensing The Boatman behind him, The Priest turns. The Boatman grabs the end of the pole, pulling The Priest toward him, step by step. The Priest, realizing that The Boatman is actually death, embraces him, dying in The Boatman's arms. The Boatman rocks him lovingly, gently, and lowers him to the ground; then, lifting the pole heavenward he causes the dead characters to rise up. Together they return to the boat and disappear into eternity where they will have another chance -- another opportunity -- to mend the warring parts of themselves and come to a place where they are whole and at peace.


Boat, River, Moon