Friday, April 17, 2009

Accidents or Fate? A comparative interview by Lucy Rupert with Susie Burpee and Jenn Goodwin

An interview for the DanceWorks Mainstage Event coming up April 29-May 2 at Enwave Theatre.

Accident 1. an event that is without apparent cause 4. occurrence of things by chance
Fate 1. a power regarded as predetermining events unalterably 2. an individual’s appointed lot
(source Canadian Oxford Dictionary)

Both artists have been asked the same questions: Consider the similarities and differences in their answers, and if the “how” of their answers as well as the “what” is evident in their choreography.

Susie Burpee choreographer and performer of Mischance and Fair Fortune1. What was the initial spark to create your work for this show? Ovid's myth of Pyramus and Thisbe.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramus_and_Thisbe#Ovid.27s_version
2. Do you believe in accidents or fate?
Accidents.
3. What made you want to start choreographing? I imagined things that didn't exist yet in the world, and I wanted to realize those ideas.
4. What would you want an audience to take away from seeing your work?
I hope that they think or feel differently, if only for a moment. 5. What other artists/personalities have influenced your work in general?
Cindy Sherman's photographic work influences my self-solo work. In this work though, the other dancer, Dan Wild, influenced me greatly because we are very much in-tune as dance artists. I believe we are inextricably linked to the work.

http://www.cindysherman.com/
6. How would you describe your relationship to music/sound?That relationship is of great interest to me. With each choreography I make, I am careful to be specific about the relationship. This work is composed by Canadian indie music artists Christine Fellows and John Samson (The Weakerthans). I have continued to work with them.

http://www.theweakerthans.org/
http://www.christinefellows.com/
7. How do you build character or characters for your work?This work was created through sense-memory improvisation, which provided the emotional anchors for the work.

Sense memory, also known as 'emotional memory', is an element of Stanislavsky’s system of Method Acting, perpetuated by Lee Strasberg. Sense memory requires the actor to call on the memories he or she felt when they were in a situation similar to that of their character. Stanislavski believed an actor needed to take emotion and personality to the stage and call upon it when playing his or her character. He also explored the use of objectives, the physical body's effect on emotions, and empathizing with the character.
8. How do you choose your dancers? I am interested in seeing individuals and their personalities on stage, so my works are person-specific. Dan Wild was important because he is so emotionally driven in performance.
Jenn Goodwin choreographer of Accidents for Every Occasion

1. What was the initial spark to create your work for this show?
I’m interested in the “in betweens”, moments we are “off” and we stumble - literally and metaphorically. I like looking at mistakes, how we learn from them, repeat them, or ignore them. I am curious about the links between what is an accident, a coincidence, fate. I think I am also kind of accident-prone and that sparked a curiosity in me physically as well as thematically.

2. Do you believe in accidents or fate?Both. I think I choose which one to believe in when it suits the situation better, to be honest. But I do think some things are 'meant to be', and sometimes things 'just happen'. I like to think both are possible.

For a little bit on Finite Mathematics and the probability of random (accidental) phenomena:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability_theory

3. What made you start choreographing?
Beyond choreographing in my basement to Michael Jackson or Grease every weekend…when I was a bit older I was dancing in other peoples’ work, and realized I wanted to create my own images, scenes, scenarios and put them on stage. I had things I had written about - personal stories, experiences that I wanted to put into movement.

4. What would you want an audience to take away from seeing your work?
Perhaps glimpses of themselves, something they can connect with, laugh at, relate to, question. To explore their “voice”, to find their own stories and realize the importance and substance of them.

5. What other artists/personalities have influenced your work in general?
Jenny Holzer (Conceptual Artist with focus on text based work), Cindy Sherman (photographer/filmmaker), Bill Viola (Video artist), and my Aunt Noreen- a performer in her own right who uses humour in everything and to value and connect with even the toughest of times.

http://www.jennyholzer.com/
http://www.billviola.com/

6. How would you describe your relationship to music/sound?
Somewhere between Spinal Tap and Mozart.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinal_Tap
Go to YouTube and search Spinal Tap and other clips from other movies created by Christopher Guest. (e.g.: A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman)
http://www.mozartproject.org/

7. How do you build characters for your work?
I like whenever possible to start from the performers’ and my own experiences and then distort, grow, shrink, shift, change, question and so on.

8. How do you choose your dancers?
For the first time I did an audition this year. It was an amazing experience to see the massive amount of talent in the community and for people to come out and share that. Other times, I wanted to work with people based on shows I have seen them in.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Organic, as defined by....

Erich Mendelsohn, German architect in the Weimar era:

Organic means " exterior forms express their interior structure...and use, structure and architectural expression coalesce to an organic whole, where scientific facts and creative vision combine to an unbreakable pattern."

I hear the word organic used in dance these days to mean loose or formless, "natural", pure. Like organic food. But I like Mendelsohn's definition.

Exterior forms express their interior structure, their organs. It means something more visceral, made of blood not air.

Dancers do often stray into architecture as a source of inspiration. Usually it comes through as formal, shape-oriented rather than motion-oriented. Ironically most architects are constantly on a quest for the expression of movement through stationary matter.

Mendelsohn encountered this word when Einstein used it to describe Mendelsohn's "Einstein Tower". He took from Einstein's "Organic!" the idea that "one cannot take any part away from it, neither from its mass nor from its motion, nor even from its logical development, without destroying the whole."

Einstein Tower is a little silly looking now, more than a little phalic, but I guess we should not be surprised coming out of 1920's Germany. Still, these were the architects of modernity, something from which we are only just now emerging.

I think we are due for a revisit of this term organic, reclaim it for things meaty and kinetic, direct and abstract.