Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ingrid Hansen and SNAFU take on Fort York: SummerWorks 2011 Dance Interviews


SNAFU Dance Theatre’s Ingrid Hansen answers some questions about Pretty Little Instincts.

LR: What inspired you to create Pretty Little Instincts?

IH: It’s really hard to say specifically – I think we’re inspired and influenced by everything we take in on some level. I actually started brewing this show while on a cross-Canada theatre for young audiences tour – even though Pretty Little Instincts has nothing specifically to do with youth. I was dealing with the wildness within myself, watching the people around me suppress their own instincts and intuition – and things began to grow. A bit like the mould growing out the damp walls of the apartment we’re staying in here in Toronto. It just erupts. Then spreads. Then you breathe in the spores. I’m not sure where I’m going with this metaphor but let’s pretend it’s really profound.

LR: How are you adapting to the space at Fort York?

IH: We use the huge sloping walls of the Fort, the deep grassy moat, and a wall set with huge wooden spikes. We also use the bats flying overhead, the gophers, the wind, the rain. . . we’ve been performing outdoors rain or shine, with the audience snuggled under tents as the rain gradually washes away the actor’s bodypaint leaving us mostly washed clean by the end of the show.

It’s an incredible, huge, raw open space.

LR: Can you describe the creative process for Pretty Little Instincts both at its inception and as you’ve taken it to new spaces?

IH: We have two brand new cast members, Seth Drabinsky (Toronto) and Heather Lindsay (HerebeMonsters, Vancouver) in this inception and the show has evolved a great deal – especially the characters. The space itself was a huge influence. We are still taking it in every night with each performance.

LR: In three sentences or less, what is SNAFU all about?

IH: Renegade Outdoor Dance Theatre.

LR: What made you want to participate in the SummerWorks festival?

IH: Who wouldn’t want to?

P.S. We have a teaser at http://snafu.liquidbeat.com/next/

We have only a few performances left and we’re out there RAIN OR SHINE.

Pretty Little Instincts

SNAFU Dance Theatre

Creator and Director Ingrid Hansen

Tuesday Aug 9 at 8:30pm

Wednesday Aug 10 at 10pm

Saturday Aug 13 at 9:30pm



All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

photo of SNAFU Dance Theatre by Gordon Lee

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Liz Peterson and Express Yourself at SummerWorks 2011

Liz Peterson speaks about Express Yourself playing at Hub 14 as part of this years SummerWorks Festival.

LR: What was the creative process like for Express Yourself — can you describe a bit how this work came to be?

LP: Well, it began really as an exploration of the process itself. Sean O’Neill (my collaborator and director of the show) approached me with this idea to create a show that was about “gestures of communication”.

We decided to develop a play without a script that was about performance. So we started with a couple of ideas, some shared influences, such as Pina Bausch, Marina Abramovic and we began to rehearse, without knowing what it was going to be.

Although there were a couple of elements that Sean knew had to be in the show, specific songs or stories or images, we didn’t have a structure. We worked like that for about 6 months, and then we decided that we had something that we were ready to show, but first we invited a couple of people to rehearsals, Ame Henderson being one of them.

Ame eventually came to collaborate with us on Express Yourself, even though we had originally asked her to look at it from a choreographer’s perspective, her input became crucial to the whole concept of the show.

We mounted a workshop of Express Yourself last December with an invited audience. And now we’ve been rehearsing casually again for a few weeks in preparation for SummerWorks.

LR: How is the choreography by Aurora Stewart de Pena integrated into the play itself?

LP: We asked Aurora to choreograph one particular part of the show where there is a shift in the performance and I enact a musical number. We’re constantly playing with shifting modes of performance throughout the play and we wanted to have a moment in the show where the aesthetic was a more heightened performative state; something tightly choreographed and a little tongue in cheek.

Both Sean and myself have performed in shows by Birdtown & Swanville (a company run by Aurora and Nika Mistruzzi) and we were both super exited to be able to include Aurora’s particular approach to choreography.

LR: Your venue is the wonderful and quirky hub 14 –how are you working with the space?

LP: Express Yourself really came to life in hub 14, and we’ve discovered that so many qualities of the show are in part due to the nature of the space.

We’ll be taking Express Yourself next spring to a theatre in St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery in New York, and we’re already trying to think about how to deal with being in a large black box with proper theatre lights and tiered seating and all the associations [with that theatrical setting].

Because Express Yourself is constantly questioning itself as a performance, we want people to be aware of the room: that it’s a studio, more of a rehearsal space than a stage, and because the audience is so close to the performer, it’s a very intimate show.

Having said that, we’re also working with Kim Purtell to find some interesting ways to light the space and that is proving to be a pretty exiting new aspect to the show.

LR: For those who may not know very much about you, could you give me a quick and dirty run down of your artistic pursuits, quests, peaks?

LP: Well, I’ve been creating shows for several years now. I used to run a company called Ammo Factory which was a group of theatre artists that I went to school with at the University of Toronto.

We did a couple of shows at Interaccess Electronic Media Gallery and a piece in the Images Festival. I’ve been interested in experimental performance since I was in a show written and directed by Alex Wolfson.

It was called The String Row Game and we rehearsed it for something like six months, a couple of times a week. Alex was really exploring a new aesthetic, and it was so exiting to finally mount it. We put it up at the Music Gallery in 2002. It was very rigorous, poetic and super challenging for the audience.

In 2008 I went to New York to intern with a theatre director called Richard Foreman who’s work was very much an inspiration for The String Row Game, as well as this group that I went to school with.

Richard’s rehearsal process was intensive and super idiosyncratic. It was weird to immerse myself in the world of this artist whom I had idealized for so long and to find him at the end of his career, a little tired of the whole circus of putting up a show and getting people out to see it.

He’s an amazing artist, and I’m so glad I did it, but it was also very eye opening. It made me realize I didn’t need to be in New York to create the work that I wanted to create. Toronto has a lot of interesting artists and a lot of potential. A quest of mine is to be a part of that potential.

LR: What do you value most as a performer and creator?

LP: Time. But that’s a practical thing. Boring. I think being able to question the work is important, especially when you’re collaborating with people. If you have a group of people in the room it’s important that questions be properly addressed, you know, like, why are we doing this?

Express Yourself

an Events in Time Production

at Summerworks Festival

at Hub 14

remaining shows:

Aug 9 at 7pm

Aug 10 at 9pm

Aug 11 at 7pm

Aug 12 at 9pm

Aug 13 at 5 pm

Aug 14 at 5pm

All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

photo of Liz Peterson by Laurie Kang

Friday, August 5, 2011

Susanna Hood, Shudder at the 2011 SummerWorks Festival

Susanna Hood

Susanna Hood, creator of Shudder and artistic director ofhum dansoundart, speaks about remounting a work, replacing herself and finding her voice.

LR: Susanna, you are dealing with an injury — how have you adapted the rehearsal process for Shudder to accommodate this?

SH: The main adjustment has been to replace myself with a performer who I really trust. Linnea Swan has performed the role once before, and I’m happy to have the chance to deepen my work with her in this piece.

I am actually looking forward to re-approaching the piece from the outside, where, in fact, I spent a good percentage of the time over its three-year creation process. I have some new perspective on the work as a whole, and liberating myself of the role of performer may allow me make more impactful changes to the piece.

I’ve also done something I’ve never done before, which is to give the performers two full days just to recover the material without me in the room. I did this to ensure that I wouldn’t get sucked in to engaging physically beyond my current means (it’s so easy to want to jump in and demonstrate).

I also chose to do this to practice giving over some responsibility to my collaborators. It’s the kind of act of trust that is worth practicing as I contemplate new relationships to my own work as an aging performer. The piece is bigger than me, it belongs to [the collaborators] as well.

LR: How have you used Francis Bacon’s paintings as fuel for this work?

SH: My first response to seeing an exhibit of his work live in 2007 was completely visceral. His work – its colour, its mystery, its distortion, its movement as violence enacted on flesh – shook my cells.

In some ways, it had a strange feeling of “home” to me. So I brought some of those images into the studio and we responded to them improvisationally. Some of my choices were highly influenced, or at least coaxed along, by reading an amazing book of collected interviews of Bacon by long-time contemporary and critic David Sylvester.

Francis Bacon was incredibly articulate in elucidating his creative process, many aspects of which inspired me. I have, in fact, returned to some of his view points to refortify the piece as we work on this remount.

His interest in what he called the appearance of a person – what lies under the surface – as well as the effect of violence enacted on flesh have been strong anchors for me.

LR: Can you tell me a bit more about the creative process?

SH: My creative process, in creation, is a bit unwieldy. It tends to be long and in layers. I go in with a pretty open field and some inklings and my collaborators, and then I go through a very circuitous process of building, tearing apart, seeing what remains relevant, and rebuilding.

This cycle happens numerous times, and what I’m generally trying to do throughout that is learn how to recognize and listen to the needs of the thing that is coming into being. This leaves lots of time and room for doubt and what feels like groping around in the dark.

But eventually I begin to learn how to communicate with it, and at certain point my job and my choices become crystal clear.

Remounting allows me to question what I’ve already taken as givens. I’m a little less precious about the piece, and I can consider things from a more distanced vantage point. In the few times I’ve done it, it has felt extremely satisfying.

LR: I suppose you’ve been asked many times, but I personally don’t know the answer so I must ask: how did you discover your personal vocal capacity and what made you want to explore it?

SH: I have always loved singing. I sang tons as a kid and I was in choirs and musicals all through school, along with playing several instruments. I’ve had a secret yearning to go into musical theatre for almost as long as I can remember.

At a pivotal point, I chose dance above everything else in terms of the time I had for training. When I moved to Toronto, I had the fortune of being pointed in the direction of a very forward thinking singing teacher – the first of several that I studied with. She’s the one that first really encouraged me to explore integrating my voice into my movement work.

At first I was resistant. I thought it was too weird, and some of the doors it opened up scared me. I’ve had and still have some great mentors, and I continue to learn so much from working with my voice. That’s probably at least part of why I’ve never looked back.

LR: what made you want to participate in the SummerWorks festival?

SH: Michael Rubenfeld was so enthusiastic when he saw the original run of “Shudder” last year, so we began a discussion then about the possibility of giving it another Toronto presentation at SummerWorks.

The fact that SummerWorks comes from a theatre sensibility seemed particularly suited to “Shudder” in particular and to an aspect of my work in general. I’ve had a hard time fitting what I do into the disciplinary categories sometimes required by various presenters, so I’ve learned to move in the direction of individuals who are excited by and want to support what I’m doing.


Presented by hum dansoundart

Conceived and Choreographed by Susanna Hood

Directed by Ruth Maddoc-Jones

Lower Ossington Theatre

Aug 6 at 2pm

Aug 7 at 7pm

Aug 8 at 4:30pm

Aug 10 at 7pm

Aug 11 at 4:30pm

Aug 12 at 4:30pm

Aug 14 at 7pm


All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

interview with Allison Cummings from Combat at the SummerWorks Festival 2011

Allison Cummings on Combat: 2011 SummerWorks Dance Interviews


Allison Cummings, co-director of a joint production by tiny bird theatre and Sore for Punching You, reveals a bit about Combat, premiering at SummerWorks Festival.

LR: What is Combat all about?

AC: Combat takes us into a mundane office in what might be Toronto where a young woman, returning from working in a conflict-zone overseas, attempts to re-enter society. Here she finds the tiny conflicts and bids for power amplified. Removed from the sensory experience of war she watches as her office becomes a battleground.

The piece explores scale and distance and how our relationship to conflict embodies itself into our everyday lives, whether it is happening far away on a mass scale, or within the confines of our interpersonal dynamics.

LR: How did you find or decide on your collaborators?

AC: Claire Calnan (co-director of Combat) and I began talking about collaborating together about two years ago, as we were both interested in continuing our individual practices in hybrid theatre. We then sought out performers and collaborators that were both open to and interested in exploring material through a melding of forms.

LR: Can you describe your creative process for Combat a little? What is it like in the rehearsal room?

AC: Both Claire and I approach the creation of work quite differently. We have both directed improvisational exercises, mine being mostly movement based and Claire’s being a technique called Open Canvas. We would then sit down with our writer Adam Underwood to discuss which things that appeared interested us the most.

I began choreographing segments quite early in the process, hoping to build a consistency within the world we were building that could carry throughout the piece and narrative.

We also start our rehearsals with a group ‘plank-off’. Everyone in the room assumes plank position and we decide on how long we are going to ‘plank’ for. Dylan Smith is at the most with 4 minutes, while most of us are almost at 3. This is really hard. And we are all now really buff. We are thinking that we may intimidate the other companies at the SummerWorks yard with our extraordinary buffness.

LR: What are the points of inspiration for the physicality of the production?

AC: Well, as above – Plank! Also, I have been working with images from videos of actual soldiers in Combat. With this we have created a base ‘move’ we are calling ‘Tunneling’.

Basically, it is low to the floor, sneaky and precise. Somewhat reminiscent of a soldier shimmying through a small space. Other moments in the work are built from conflicted communication, the characters built by the performers and the stillness of shock.

LR: What’s next after SummerWorks?

AC: For the team, we are approaching SummerWorks as our first phase in the development of this work. After this festival presentation, we will be gathering what we learned and planning on how to arrive at the next step. We are confident that what we are discovering is rich enough that Combat will have a life beyond this summer.

For myself, after SummerWorks, I will be getting ready to return to Thailand to enter into my second residency at Compeung, where I will be creating new work for an exhibition in Chiang Mai in December.


A tiny bird theatre/Sore for Punching You co-production

Theatre Centre

Aug 4 at 7:30pm

Aug 6at 10pm

Aug 9 at 10pm

Aug 11 at 7:30pm

Aug 12 at 5pm

Aug 14 at 5pm


All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Interview with Kevin Michael Shea of Common Descent's Hero and Leander at Summerworks 2011

photo by Danielle Donn

It’s Lucy again (Blue Ceiling dance director, dancer, choreographer, multi-disciplinary performer and person very curious about how artists make their work) with some interviews involving members of Summerworks Festival productions with a dance or physical focus. Hope you enjoy them! First up: an interview with Director Kevin Michael Shea of Common Descent’s production Hero and Leander.

LR: What inspired you to work on the Hero and Leander story?

KMS: It’s a really gorgeous story, but it hasn’t been interpreted too much throughout history, which means we can kind of make it whatever we want without having to worry about most people’s expectations of it. The actual myth, revolving around Hero and Leander, is really only about half of the play – the other half concerns a second relationship, inspired by the myth but with different characters, which means that even if people do know the myth, there will be a bunch of surprises in our version of it.

The story also just ends up being such a good way of looking at love, sex, and commitment – the contemporary connections just kept jumping out at me when I was working on it, and it’s lent itself particularly well to the songwriting Wade and Scott have done.

LR: How did you find or assemble your team?

KMS: Friends, and friends of friends. There are a few people I worked with a bunch before. Our set and costume designer, Anna Treusch, has designed most of my stuff at this point, and she brought a few members to our team, as did people Scott knew from musical directing various shows around the city.

LR: How have you made Hero and Leader? What has been the creative process (i.e. collaborative, improvisational, script-driven, spontaneously together, separate elements then integrated etc…)?

KMS: The idea to do something with the myth came up a long time ago, and I tried working on it from a few different angles. Initially it was going to be a very physical one-man show co-created with Wade Bogert-O’Brien (who ended up being the show’s lyricist), and then it was going to just be a play, and then, maybe inevitably, I asked Wade to write a song to help along a scene I was working on. I thought the song he came up with was hilarious when he half-sung it to me in my kitchen, and realized that a musical was the only way I could tell this story. For the next few months we continued in this fashion. I would write a scene and then ask him to write a song, which I would then incorporate. Then, a little while later, I met Scott Christian, who was looking for projects to work on. Once he came on board we raced through the rest. I would send Wade a scene, he would write lyrics and send them off to Scott, who would in turn write the music. And then we would all argue about it.

LR: How would you describe the physicality/dance involved in your show?

KMS: It’s a real mix of things. We have a little bit of real musical theatre choreography, though we’ve really tried to tailor it to the characters, which has resulted in a kind of skewed version of the type of dance people are probably used to in musical comedies. We also work a bit with suggestive movement for some of the more fantastical moments. Mostly, though, the physicality is working in tandem with the design to build images from scene to scene. Our inspirations range from Renaissance paintings of classical subjects to the ways I see couples I know behaving in life.

LR: What drew you to Summerworks Festival?

KMS: There are very few places in Canada where you can debut new pieces of theatre in an affordable way. Especially musical theatre that is aimed at an urban audience. So SummerWorks is absolutely vital in this sense. The other nice thing about it is that you end up being in such good company. Many of my favourite writers and directors and performers have had shows at SummerWorks recently, this year included, and the chance to test our work alongside these people is very exciting and satisfying from an artistic perspective.

Hero and Leander

A Common Descent Production

Summerworks Festival 2011

Factory Mainspace

Aug 4 at 5pm

Aug 6 at 7:30pm

Aug 7 at 10pm

Aug 10 at 7:30pm

Aug 12 at 2:30pm

Aug 13 at 5pm



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Christine Birch and everything in moderation: Toronto Fringe Dance Interviews 2011

Christine Birch and Rhonda Baker -- photo by Omer Yukseker

Christine Birch and Rhonda Baker get saturated in everything in moderation. Two shows under their belts and here’s a little interview with Christine to tempt you into a seat for the remaining shows. If you’re reading this on Sunday – their next show is at 1:15pm today, so read the interview later and head on out to the show!

LR: I'm intrigued by the friendship that fuels this project. On your website it says you and Rhonda met on your first day of professional training. How has this friendship worked it's way into everything in moderation?

CB: The thing is with Rhonda and myself, there’s never been a choreographer - dancer separation. Our “real life” happenings kind of seamlessly blend in to our rehearsals and vice versa.

Sometimes we wonder if other people work the same way we do or if laughing through half the rehearsal is abnormal…we just go with the flow I suppose.

We know each other so well it’s hard not to let our friendship infuse into the realm and nuances of the work – we exist within it in a lot of ways even though the piece is not about us per se.

LR: What are your vices, those things you can't take or have in moderation?

CB: I would say technology would be my biggest vice and probably is the same for most of my generation. Rhonda and I spend far too much time on social networking sites for our own good although it is a great way for us to connect when we are in different provinces.

Even texting, checking email on a regular basis – there seems to be that need to stay connected to your online persona which I don’t always think is a healthy thing.

It has become a major part of life though so it's very difficult to not be connected. Then there are all the normal vices like over indulging in music listening, beer and chocolate but those ones aren’t so bad really!

LR: What made you want to embark on the Fringe Festival experience?

CB: I actually stumbled upon the Fringe Festival this year - I only submitted my name right before the deadline. When I found out I had been drawn I felt a mix of emotions including fear and excitement.

I co-produced a multi-disciplinary show in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival last summer so I had an idea of what Fringe is all about. I'm thrilled that I have the chance to produce dance work for an audience, which isn't necessarily exposed to dance.

As an interpreter to have a run of seven shows is also pretty fantastic and actually gives one the chance to realize the depth of the work. There is a lot of great energy surrounding the fringe festival and I’m proud to be dancing in a festival with so many other emerging artists in the dance community.

LR: What are the parallels between saturation/moderation and reality/fantasy? How do you link those two ideas, do you link those two ideas?

CB: Everything is relative to what you consider reality and what saturation is. For us – those lines are very close to one another. We joke a lot about obsessing or spending too much time on social media or over certain bands’ music.

We often think that we’re not living in the “real” world but then we have to ask ourselves what is real? I think people obsess as much about things they are addicted to as much as they do about trying to stay in control so I suppose in both situation balance doesn't really exist.

Fantasy most definitely can blend into reality very easily or at least in the daily life in the dance world. Like I said – it’s a very blurry line…

LR: Is there a story to everything in moderation?

CB: There isn't exactly one solid story or plot going on – it’s really just two different takes on what moderation means to us. You know all those things one struggles with and how we deal – sometimes it’s plainly saying ****this and walking away.

The movement is brash, physically demanding, and also very human at some points. We’re just two women having a lot of fun doing what we love to do.

LR: Thanks Christine for the interview and have a wonderful rest of your run at the Fringe!

everything in moderation
by Rhonda Baker, Christine Birch & Tara Gaucher
presented by Christine Birch from Toronto, ON

Choreographer: Rhonda Baker & Tara Gaucher
Cast: Rhonda Baker & Christine Birch
Genre: Dance, Physical Theatre
Venue 6 George Ignatieff Theatre

45 min.
Wed, July 6 8:45 PM
Sat, July 9 Noon
Sun, July 10 1:15 PM
Tue, July 12 5:15 PM
Wed, July 13 9:15 PM
Thu, July 14 2:15 PM
Sat, July 16 9:45 PM

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 - $10+$1 convenience fee).

Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Carlynn Reed and Jonathon Neville in Let's Play House: Toronto Fringe Festival 2011

Carlynn Reed and Jonathon Neville answer some questions about Imagiscape’s Let’s Play House, a compelling expression of the complexities of caregiving. Six years after its premiere, it comes to the Toronto Fringe Festival. Carlynn and Jonathon (J&C) answer some questions.

LR: Can you tell me what Let's Play House is about?

J&C: Let’s Play House is about changing habits – it’s about changing families without making everyone hate everyone. It is about us as caregivers. Jonathon is sole caregiver for his mom, Christine, who has Alzheimer's. Following university, living at home was becoming stressful but it was increasingly clear she could not live alone. She clutches to a PhD which can't help her now. She says she wishes she was dead.

Carlynn is primary caregiver for her son, Kirk, who suffered a soccer injury. Instead of healing normally, he plummeted into full-body pain. This once-tough athlete and great musician lay on the couch, unable to walk or talk. Months turned to years. No diagnosis. Grim prognosis.

We create theatre with our families about our families. The story overlays and interweaves 3 stories: each of our homes, and the creative process that changed them. Dance is integral to the story.

LR: How have you managed to create a show about chaotic caregiving while experiencing chaotic caregiving?

J&C: When we discovered we were both caregivers and dancers and theatre artists, we knew we needed to take our homes through a creative process. Our homes were stuck systems, where attempts to help elicited defence mechanism responses. Creating this theatre project gave us something we could do together – something we could talk about that was actually enjoyable. It created a context that allowed open dialogue.

We transcribed and categorized fights. We went into rehearsal having a sense of the dynamics that lead to our various typical conflicts. We challenged each other when we saw repetitive default behaviours. We began to care for the progress in the other home as much as our own.

We filmed rehearsals and at home for purposes of a future documentary. Although initially we did not realize how supportive this would be, the camera was attentive, kind, steady, compassionate, and patient. Our videographer was our 'outside eye' - an integral part of our process.

LR: Has the autobiographical nature of the performance been difficult or challenging?

J&C: We needed consensus without compromising the drama. For instance, Jonathon had to get Christine to agree that the not-always-pretty presentation of her is fair – and that it should be exposed to the public to see. She accepted the suggestion that it does not make her look bad – rather she looks grand to have been willing to give her story to help other struggling families.

Christine and Kirk both contributed to the script. When we started learning lines, Christine was our script prompter. She wouldn’t let us include a fart scene. We honoured her request.

Kirk wrote two songs for the show – he was unable to hold his guitar or play piano or sing, but he whistled and Jonathon played it back on the piano. That was Kirk’s first creative act in several years. This time round he is half of the Stage Managing team and excerpts from his new band's first CD complement the original score.

We had previously collaborated on choreography, but this was the first time either of us had collaborated on a script. Many times the process of writing was as painful as the caregiving itself, and there were moments when we were on the edge of abandoning the project. The script is still evolving as we integrate elements previously left on the “cutting room floor”.

LR: Can you speak a bit about the other ways and places Let's Play House has been presented and performed?

J&C: We have performed LPH at the Fringe (Edmonton), at a rented venue (Toronto’s Wellesley Street Theatre), at churches and as the keynote presentation at conferences and AGMs for the Ontario Federation of Cerebral Palsy, the Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology, and others.

LR: Why did you choose to participate in the Toronto Fringe with this work?

J&C: The Fringe exposes our work to audiences beyond our fan base or outreach channels. Our caregiving was restricting our freedom to travel or even organize a theatrical run in Toronto. Kirk moved out on his own last year. Christine moved into a nursing home in March. Now we take the world – starting in, and always returning to, Toronto.

Let’s Play House

Presented by Imagiscape

Director: Dennis Hassell

Choreographer: Carlynn Reed & Jonathon Neville

Cast: Carlynn Reed & Jonathon Neville

Genre: Drama, Dance

Venue 6 George Ignatieff Theatre

60 min.

Fri, July 8 8:45 PM

Sat, July 9 1:45 PM

Sun, July 10 3:00 PM

Mon, July 11 10:15 PM

Wed, July 13 5:45 PM

Sat, July 16 12:30 PM

Sun, July 17 7:30 PM

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 - $10+$1 convenience fee).

Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kendra Hughes and Kinetic Elements: 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival Dance Interviews

Kinetic Elements returns to the Toronto Fringe for an exploration of social issues including the protests at last year’s G20 summit. Artistic director and choreographer Kendra Hughes answers some questions.

LR: This is your second time doing the Toronto Fringe? What draws you to the Fringe Festival?

KH: The Toronto Fringe Festival is a fast, fun and great way to introduce your company to audience that you might not otherwise reach. It is an amazing opportunity to produce a show as an independent company. We feel incredibly lucky to participate two years in a row!

LR: For those who have never seen your work before, what would you say your work is all about?

KH: My work is a fusion of dance styles. My dance background includes a collection of styles; I started in modern dance, graduated college in a ballet based program and worked professionally as a hip hop dancer. All of those disciplines contribute to my current work now. This year my focus was to communicate issues that are important to the [Toronto] community through dance.

LR: reSURGEnce has to do with a lot of social issues and seems to be very focused on some of the specific issues in Toronto. I'm intrigued about dealing with the G20 summit through dance: how have you approached this?

KH: The choreography for the G20 piece has been a year in the making almost. At first the inspiration for movement came from watching videos on YouTube of people that were involved in the G20 protests. From there we participated in the workshop Series 8:08 Take Two program, where we were able to get feedback twice from the experience. Over time I have had many conversations with the dancers about the event and about the characters they will play. As the final touch, we had someone come in to teach the dancers some fight choreography.

LR: What is your musical score for this show and why?

KH: The musical score this year is varied between instrumental techno tracks to ambient sounds to no music at all. Each track was chosen by the choreographer to fit the feel and theme of each individual piece.

LR: What is the narrative thread to your show --is there a narrative thread? How is it all put together?

KH: The show is connected through the common thread of social issues. There are pieces about beauty, the loss of control one feels when they are labeled and the G20. Together they make our show reSURGEnce.

Kinetic Elements Presents:


as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival

Where: Factory Mainspace Theatre

125 Bathurst St Toronto


Saturday July 9 @ 9:15pm

Sunday July 10 @ 1:15pm

Monday July 11 @ 8:30pm

Wednesday July 13 @ 3:30pm

Thursday July 14 @ 11:00pm

Friday July 15 @ 4:00pm

Saturday July 16 @ 2:15pm

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 - $10+$1 convenience fee).

Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes.html are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

metamorphosis dance theatre at the Toronto Fringe Festival 2011

metamorphosis dance theatre tackles some meaty and mature material about identity and discovery with some nods to the great Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse, modern and hip hop dance styles. One of the creators and performers Tyson James answers a few questions.

LR: What is your show about?

TJ: Simply put, discharge is the coming of age story for two men. Each is struggling in their own way with two dual aspects of their identity and it takes a moment of discharge and each other to discover their true selves. "In this final moment,discharge all that you once were, discharge the limits of today, and discharge all that you will become lovingly into the future."

LR: What made you want to participate in the fringe?

TJ: The Fringe is an exciting and truly unique festival. Its lottery system is the ultimate equalizer. As an artist you are free of judgment and scrutiny, because your selection is left entirely up to chance. Company founders Paul Charbonneau and Tyson James knew that metamorphosis dance theatre was going to create challenging and provocative work and in its infancy a festival without a panel of adjudicators has been a dream come true.

LR: How have you and the other collaborators come together for this project?

TJ: discharge was originally presented at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre under a different name as part of the Young Creators Unit in 2010. Paul Charbonneau and I (co-founders of metamorphosis dance theatre) knew that with our premiere work we wanted to discuss identity as it relates to gender and sexuality for queer men in Toronto. Expanding the original piece seemed a perfect fit for the company and for the context of Toronto Fringe.

LR: I understand there is some sexual content and nudity in the show, how do you approach this as a creator and/or performer? How have you reached a level of comfort with these elements?

TJ: It's been important to create a safe space in rehearsal and metamorphosis dance theatre has challenged its artists to be brave in the studio, to push themselves and dare its performers to go places they haven't gone before.

The specific sexual content in discharge is there because it belongs there and is integral to the telling of this story. In this way, any nudity or challenging sexuality is free of shock value because it appears solely in order to reveal something about the characters you are meeting on stage.

LR: What are the dance forms or techniques or movement inspirations for metamorphosis dance theatre?

TJ: Specific to discharge the company is using a wide range of dance forms, from traditional musical theatre vocabulary in honour of the late, great Fosse to raw and challenging modern contemporary. We've thrown in a little hip hop to really shake things up. metamorphosis dance theatre has members from a range of theatrical backgrounds and resident choreographer, Paul Charbonneau, has been challenged to adapt to all sorts of facilities and abilities to create a diverse yet unified dance aesthetic.

metamorphosis dance theatre


Direction & Choreography: Tyson James and Paul Charbonneau

Cast: Tyson James and Paul Charbonneau

Genre: Drama, Dance

Warning: Strobe Light, Smoking, Nudity, Sexual Content, Graphic Violence, Mature Language

Venue 9 Robert Gill Theatre

60 min.

Fri, July 8 9:15 PM

Sat, July 9 4:00 PM

Sun, July 10 5:45 PM

Tue, July 12 1:00 PM

Wed, July 13 11:15 PM

Fri, July 15 9:45 PM

Sun, July 17 2:45 PM

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 - $10+$1 convenience fee).

Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows .

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cendrillon at the Toronto Fringe Festival 2011

“A poor girl and her ugly step-sisters are totally, wildly obsessed with a boy. When the invitation to his Bar Mitzvah arrives, they must transcend their tween styles and outshine each other for his attentions.” Patricia Allison and Kevin Michael Shea contort the Cinderella story….Get ready: they are also doing Summerworks!
 Patricia and Kevin answers some of my questions below.

Lucy: You are doing the double play in Toronto this summer with a Fringe show and a Summerworks show in fairly close succession: Is that madness for you? How are you finding the preparations?

Kevin: It's definitely intense, but in both cases I have great collaborators who take care of a lot of what my job would normally be on a show. Cendrillon is dance-theatre, and I'm able to rely a lot on choreography. Hero & Leander [for Summerworks] is a musical theatre piece, and I'm able to rely a lot on the songs. If both shows were dialogue driven plays that I was both writing and directing, there's no way I'd be able to do both, but since the writing and directing are pieces of a larger puzzle it's far more manageable.

Lucy: with Cendrillon you are remixing the traditional Cinderella story. What is your adaptation and how did you decide on the direction to take with it?

Patricia: Cinderella was a story that both Kevin and I have always had in the backs of our mind to work with one day. We enjoy the themes and the character potential that it has to offer.

Kevin: Like most fairytales or myths, it's a great lens through which to look at various aspects of society and culture. Our show looks at issues of sexual insecurity and anxiety, as well as sibling dynamics. It's also about being twelve years old. So instead of going to a ball, Cendrillon goes to a bar mitzvah, and instead of a prince charming, it's just some boy all the girls have a crush on. Hopefully making the characters so explicitly young will help people see the story with fresh eyes. And combined with the fact that it's set in a very contemporary world, it also makes it quite a bit funnier than the original story without sacrificing any of the meaning.

Lucy: I am a lover of fairy and folk tales myself, so it may be a bit of a loaded question for me to ask: why do you think these tales offer endless possibilities for adaptation?

Patricia: I think they offer endless possibilities for adaptation because they are nice and basic stories based on simple morals and story structure. It gives you a lot to play with and to interpret.

Lucy: In a few sentences can you tell me about your choreographic process?

Patricia: This process in particular was different than most I have been a part of before due to the fact we are trying to blend text and choreography together. Some of the scenes of the show are text driven, so we allowed the text to lead the way and other elements of the plot come from choreography only. The story was the main driving factor so all movement has been based around advancing plot.

Lucy: What do you hope for from your Fringe experience?

Patricia: The fringe experience we were looking for was really an excuse to try this collaboration out together. It has already begun for us in the sense that the process itself is what we were hoping for. We are now excited to get it in front of an audience and see how it is received and to see what kind of feedback we get. We hope to have a lot of fun!


Presented by Lastname Firstname Productions and Common Descent

Director: Kevin Michael Shea

Choreographer: Patricia Allison

Genre: Play, Dance

Warning: Sexual Content

Mature Language

Venue 1 Tarragon Theatre Mainspace

60 min.

Fri, July 8 5:15 PM

Sat, July 9 7:30 PM

Mon, July 11 1:00 PM

Wed, July 13 11:00 PM

Thu, July 14 11:30 PM

Fri, July 15 Noon

Sat, July 16 6:15 PM

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 - $10+$1 convenience fee).
Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes.html are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Collection and Lady Janitor: Dance at the Toronto Fringe Festival 2011

The Collection and Lady Janitor are the brainchildren of Jasmine Graham and Eroca Nichols respectively and they've teamed up for a shared program at the Toronto Fringe Festival in Feathers vs. Fauna. Creative, funny and hardworking, these emerging voices in the Toronto dance scene answered a few questions for me.

LR: Ok, Feathers vs. Fauna: tell me a little bit about each piece, what is the show about?

JG: Aviary is a duet performed by Emily Poirier and Jasmyn Fyffe. We created the work collaboratively, working with improvised sound scores that the dancers created in order to generate the movement material. From there, I selected movements and arranged them into phrases, removing anything that seemed unnecessary or out of place in an effort to figure out the logic of the piece and build a cohesive language and structure that would make sense to an audience. I believe that dance is a visual art and my dances are a reflection of that; Aviary doesn't have a linear narrative and it isn't really about conveying a specific idea to the audience. It's about creating a beautiful, fantastical world filled with tragedy, contradictions and humour. I like to leave most of the interpretation up to the audience, they are an integral part of the piece.

EN: My family is a band of outsiders—or at least this is the collective persona that we have cultivated since I can remember. We moved a lot— we’ve lived in trailers, apartments, houses, basements, motels, in Alberta, Arizona, British Columbia, California, Nevada, Ontario, and Saskatchewan; my sister and I attended over 9 schools by the time we entered high school. Our nomadism extends beyond the road; my mom had a tarot reading that led us to legally change all our names—first and last-- when I was three. We’ve remained somewhat liquid in the identity department. We’ve had little money. We’ve driven across deserts, mountains and prairies. We’ve broken down. We’ve never quite fit in. We’ve stuck together even when we haven’t. The Deer In Head Lights Sideshow/Slideshow is a solo exploring my family’s collectively generated narrative.

LR: Eroca, with Lady Janitor your work is known for its zany humour -- where do you think that comes from?

EN: I’m kind of a funny lady. Lately I've been on a mission to get contemporary dance to take itself a bit less seriously. Deer in Headlights is a bit darker. It is based on stories from my own personal narrative. It's not with out humor but it's definitely the most emo work I've ever made.

LR: Jasmine -- I've known you primarily as a dancer. What fuels you as a choreographer?

JG: As a choreographer I'm fuelled by the dancers I work with and images that I develop before or during the piece. Sometimes I begin with a clear image of a costume or set or spatial relationship that I want to develop or create, and other times I have no idea what I want or what will happen, and I just work and watch the dancers work until I see something that I think could be further explored. I love to work collaboratively with the dancers; it is so exciting to watch a dancer perform material that they created and/or developed because it is so believable for the audience.

LR: How many dancers are involved in this show and how have you each selected them?

EN: The Deer In Head Lights Sideshow/Slideshow is a solo and I'm dancing it. This is a first for me--normally my work involves huge herds of humans. I’m making myself nervous. Come! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll line dance!

JG: I chose to work with Jasmyn and Emily because they are both amazingly talented physical, open, honest and trusting dancers. They are also good friends and there is nothing better then creating with friends. We have created a really safe, open and honest atmosphere and I think it's a lot easier to create and take chances and make mistakes when your work environment is like that.

LR: What do you each hope audiences will get from seeing Feathers vs. Fauna?

EN: A warped family portrait that highlights the fact that all our families are strange and we love them.

JG: I can only hope that the audiences who come to see Feathers vs Fauna will leave transformed in some way, that is the ultimate honour for creators in my opinion.

The Collection and Lady Janitor present

Feathers vs. Fauna

Director: Jasmine Graham, Eroca Nicols

Choreographer: Jasmine Graham, Eroca Nicols

Genre: Dance, Physical Theatre

Warning: Audience Participation

Venue 10 Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

60 min.

Fri, July 8 3:30 PM

Sun, July 10 9:15 PM

Mon, July 11 7:00 PM

Tue, July 12 2:45 PM

Wed, July 13 4:15 PM

Fri, July 15 12:30 PM

Sat, July 16 8:45 PM

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 - $10+$1 convenience fee)
Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes.html are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Interview with Janet Castillo of Catalyst the Company: Toronto Fringe Dance Interview

With dancers and creators from a wide range of styles and experiences, Catalyst the Company presents The 5th Element in this years Fringe Festival, working through earth, water, fire, air towards something more personal and unique: what isyour element? Company director and dancer Janet Castillo answered a few questions.

Catalyst the Company

LR: Catalyst the Company has a lot of industry/commercial experience; what made you decide to do the Fringe?

JC: As performers and choreographers, we’ve been lucky enough to bring to life the visions of many people leading the industry/commercial world. After years of doing so, we returned to Toronto and felt creatively stagnant and started talking about our own stories, obstacles, and experiences on our path.

We wanted a platform to share these stories and to show how incredibly diverse we were. Through that, The 5th Element was born and was premiered last May. The Fringe Festival was a perfect opportunity to re-mount the show for a larger audience and to shine light on the talented performers we have at home (right here) in Toronto. We continue to be involved in the industry/commercial world, but know that we have a responsibility to create works that reflect our own voices and the voices of this city.

LR: What is your show all about?

JC: The show is all about finding your own Element - Your own unique gift in the world. Each of our dancers is unique and has come together to build this show. The 5th Element takes audiences on a journey across the elements of life (Earth, Water, Fire, Air), while celebrating the multi-cultural and diversity of Toronto through dance, music, and spoken word. We mash up the freshest mix of urban, classical, and cultural dance to create a new movement in of itself.

LR: How have you adapted the four elements into dance?

JC: Through the rumblings of the earth, to the emotional depths of the rain, to the burning heat of the fire, to the flying freedom of the air…(from our press release).

EARTH - Representing “the heartbeat” of the show, this element showcases the organic and pulsing rhythm of house, latin, tribal, and hula dance as the performers are called to their mission.

WATER – Representing “the obstacle”, this element showcases the emotional depths of movement in contemporary, soul, and ballet as the performers courageously face their own personal battles.

FIRE - Representing ‘the burning heat”, this element showcases the bold, fresh, and in-your-face energy of hip hop, martial-arts and flamenco-inspired movement as performers are filled with passion and the determination to fight back.

AIR – Representing “the flying freedom”, this element showcases the uplifting and moving hybrid of contact improvisation, jazz, ballet, and more as performers find clarity in their gifts and set forth into the future to inspire change.

LR: And the 5th element?

JC: The 5th Element is a new movement in itself. It’s un-definable, infinite, and always transforming. It’s when we take all the elements and selflessly bring them all together. In the original company, there were 5 of us and we each represented a different element. We created pieces by doing a lot of improvisation and experimenting with our styles. We’ve been told that the movement in our show is truly hybrid in its form (without feeling too manufactured or contrived), and combined with our costumes and storytelling, it has inspired audiences to new heights in their own lives.

LR: What do you hope audiences will experience in seeing The 5th Element?

JC: We hope that they will be inspired to find what their own Element is, andto go out and share it with the world! We truly believe that as Catalysts, we are here to boldly ignite others to feel what we feel as artists and to spread the movement to as many people as possible. We want people to feel the range of their raw emotions from passion, to struggle, to seduction, to excitement and elevation. Quite simply…we want to make the world dance…even if it’s just in the rhythm of their hearts.

The 5th Element

Catalyst the Company

Director: Janet L. Castillo & Natasha Powell

Choreographer: Janet L. Castillo, Natasha Powell, Tiff Mak

Genre: Family, Dance

Venue 3 Bathurst Street Theatre

60 min.

Wed, July 6 10:30 PM 303

Sat, July 9 11:00 PM 319

Mon, July 11 4:45 PM 328

Wed, July 13 9:15 PM 343

Thu, July 14 1:45 PM 346

Fri, July 15 Noon 352

Sat, July 16 7:30 PM 363

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 - $10+$1 convenience fee)

Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes.html are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pocket Alchemy’s Susan Kendal, Brittany Duggan and Krista Posyniak: 2011 Toronto Fringe Dance Interviews

photo of Krista Posyniak. Photo by Omer Yukseker
Interview By Lucy Rupert

Pocket Alchemy presents three dances inspired by organs, the Mayfly and dialectical theory in Scienceography. I talked to the three collaborators about theory and artistry coming together. (Interview participants Brittany Duggan, Susan Kendal and Krista Posyniak are all referred to by first name for easier reading. I shall remain good old LR.)

LR: The three of you discovered you were all inspired by science in different ways. How did each of you come to find inspiration from science?

Brittany: Dance often deals with the social sciences. What I have loved about making this show is, as a choreographer, I got to make a piece that gets into human behavior while inspired by the natural sciences. The balance has made my head less chaotic somehow.

Susan: When we decided to do a show together some of the works were already in progress. We felt strongly that we needed to find a common element for the show to be cohesive. It’s been delightful to find that the common thread is science, albeit disparate areas.

Krista: I think science infiltrates our lives without most of us realizing it. When the third piece was started, based on dialectic theory, Susan made the associated science link.

We gave them giant labels: Psychology, Physiology and Entomology but each piece delves into an exact idea. In more playful words, we got the microscope out and took a closer look.

LR: Susan — how have you knitted (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist) together the factual and poetic information about organs? I ask with vested interest, after dancing in A|Chromatic, your 2008 work about colour blindness.

Susan: I do love to incorporate text into my dance work. For Organ Stories all the text is delivered by the dancer. I pulled factual, descriptive text from Gray’s Anatomy (the book not the show!), which is very dry and “medical”.

I commissioned poems from Lindsay Zier-Vogel about each of the four organs featured in the dance. While the poetry is abstract, it’s also evocative and personal. The poems are, I think, the heart (puns are too easy here!) of each section.

For movement inspiration I’ve used emotional associations with each organ, along with their actual functions – for instance a section of the “heart” choreography traces the path that the blood takes through the four chambers.

LR: Brittany — what inspired you to take on the Mayfly?

Brittany – I was commissioned in January 2011 by the Creative Republic to create a piece of dance in response to a group of objects in a box. The objects were small, items you might find in a dollar store, and my designer for that project, Berkeley Poole, noted that they were the types of things that don’t last long.

I played with the idea of ephemerality that both the objects and dance itself as a form share. During a costume consultation I noted looking like a bug, and suggested the Mayfly who I knew to live a very short life once an adult. For the Fringe, the work unfolds in three stages.

LR: Krista (and Brittany, since you are co-creators on the third piece)– How do you make dance about dialectical theory? is it embedded in the creative process? symbolized?

Brittany – Dialectical theory, in the therapeutic sense, was a starting point but the concept of dialect is central – the push and pull of two arguments in the mind of an individual.

Krista: We started with researching dialectic behaviour therapy. Out of that, we learned about the continuous re-shaping of the idea throughout history that was strongly formatted by ancient philosophers.

Using formal ideas that are supposed to be void of emotion, we started to form a skeleton of how one person might use dialectic through inner conscious.

With movement, we played with the notion that two ideas can exist at the same time, and how one would challenge the other. It has resulted in a lot of jarring movement that melts and spirals into gestural movement.

LR: What do you hope the audiences will experience from Scienceography?

Brittany: Each piece asks something a little different from the viewer. I hope the audiences are delighted by visual and thematic range.

Susan: I second that! I always hope the audience finds enjoyment in the dancing along with a dose of discomfort, that it evokes strong images or memories for them and that they leave feeling invigorated and curious and satisfied.

I hope they maybe even laugh aloud if something tickles their fancy, it’s nice to both hear and feel an audience’s attention.

Krista: I’m always hoping that audiences will ask questions of what they saw and also be relate to it. I hope the audience will give us their curiosity that will propel us further in our discovery.

Scienceography: dances of physiology, entymology and psychology

Choreographers: B. Duggan, S. Kendal & K. Posyniak
Cast: Brittany Duggan, Julie Grant, Susan Kendal, Krista Posyniak
Genre: Dance, Physical Theatre
Venue 12 Factory Theatre Mainspace

60 min.
Thu, July 7 6:30 PM
Sat, July 9 11:00 PM
Mon, July 11 1:00 PM
Wed, July 13 7:30 PM
Fri, July 15 9:15 PM
Sat, July 16 12:30 PM
Sun, July 17 3:30 PM

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)

Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes.html are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Alisha Ruiss and Nick Power Get Happy: 2011 Fringe Dance Interviews

GET HAPPY is a lindy hop based theatrical production integrating poetry, swing-era dancing and live music by Public Gesture Productions. I was lucky enough to have collaborators Alisha Ruiss and Nick Power chime in on their process of creating their “Lindy Hop Dream Ballet” for the 2011 Fringe Festival.

See our conversation below.

LR: I’m totally thrilled to hear someone is using Lindy Hop to build a theatrical production. What made you want to use this dance form to tell a story?

AR: Last August I was asked by Tricia Postle, to put together something swing related at the Majlis for the Figure of Speech series which fosters as collaborations between poets, dancers and musicians.

LR: Is this how you, Nick and Phil met?

AR: Tricia introduced me to Nick for Figure of Speech. I already knew Phil [perfomer and co-choreographer] from the swing dance scene. We did the initial show for Majlis with musicians Drew Jurecka & Chris Bezant and the musicians in the band this time around, Aline Homzya & Mikko Hilden, are colleagues of theirs.

LR: How did you develop the script and choreography?

AR: 98% of the dance is completely improvised! Because it’s lead and follow dancing, it is creation on the spot.

NP: I’d been working on a series of poems, Dancing with Gravity, that were based on drawings by Shelagh Keeley of a modern dancer, Lin Snelling, in rehearsal for a new work. Many of them were visual poems. A lot of what I showed Alisha she appreciated but knew wouldn’t work in the context of swing dance. This put a healthy pressure on me to bring her work that could ‘swing’.

We’ve not been precious about keeping the exact wording of the original poems. We’ve moved from the poem/song/dance collage of the Figure of Speech performances toward a narrative arc with character development.

AR: We used music that fit the dance of course, but also had some relation to the poetry, in terms of either lyrics or mood. We did a lot of re-writing and adaptation for the one-hour format needed for Fringe; and to give the piece more clarity and a tighter narrative.

Nick & I have spoken often about finding a term for just what the piece is – it’s not a play or a musical or a cabaret or a poetry reading. I think of it as a lindy hop dream ballet.

LR: Can you make a living as a professional lindy hop dancer?

AR: Like any dance profession it is difficult to make it your sole source of income. The real deal vintage swing lindy hop (as opposed to ballroom swing) is still a niche market; only a handful of people in the world right now make their living through swing dancing.

My current day job is as a nanny but I’ve done everything from wait tables to administrative assistance in legal offices etc. I have a classical music degree from McGill in voice performance. Dance is still relatively new for me; I only really started with the Swinging Air Force’s boot camp troupe in 2005. I have taught occasionally and hope to do more.

LR: What do you hope audiences will get from seeing Get Happy?

AR: Aside from touching people and entertaining them, the number one thing I hope to do is to interest people in lindy hop/swing and going out and learning to dance.

The theme we’re also exploring in this piece is one we’ve termed swingintimacy. Swing has great movement, rhythm, pulse, play; a real outward quality.

The word intimacy is derived from both intimus (innermost) and intimare (tell, to relate). In real intimacy there is the “telling” & “relating” aspect, the transfer of the self to the other. Swing used to be common slang for sexual intercourse.

LR: Which we also euphemize as “being intimate”.

AR: We often think of romantic intimacy as the pinnacle of emotional human experience, but it’s just one among many experiences of transcendence. To me that transfer of the self to the other is physicalized in dance in the core moves of lindy hop – the swing out, the close position and the swing out again.

The characters in this piece are struggling to go beyond themselves – to get happy, essentially. Happiness is something you receive as a gift and participate in rather than achieve solely of your own accord and ambition.


Director: Alisha Ruiss

Choreographer: Phil Bourassa, Alisha Ruiss

Cast: Phil Bourassa, Nicholas Power, Alisha Ruiss, and The Simple Joys Jazz Band

Venue 8 Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse

55 min.

Wed, July 6 6:30 PM

Fri, July 8 8:45 PM

Sun, July 10 1:30 PM

Wed, July 13 11:00 PM

Thu, July 14 7:45 PM

Fri, July 15 1:45 PM

Sat, July 16 3:30 PM

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)
Several money-saving passes http://fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes.html are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interview with Kate Nankervis of Bonne Compagnie: Toronto Fringe 2011

Kate Nankervis of Bonne Compagnie: 2011 Toronto Fringe Dance Interviews

By Lucy Rupert

I’m Lucy Rupert, I’m the artistic director and dancer for Blue Ceiling dance, based in Toronto. I have a passion speaking with other dance artists about how and why they make their work. This interview is with Kate Nankervis, one of three women who have come together as Bonne Compagnie for this year’s Fringe Festival. Their work, Ab Intra, is an integration of three solos on the theme of privacy versus spectacle.

LR: What drew you to participate in the Toronto Fringe Festival?

KN: The fringe has a real spirit of performance, taking chances to do whatever you can think up and you get what is considered a LONG RUN in the dance world…. 7 shows!

With tickets prices being cheap, people who might never see dance have no excuse not to at least take a chance on us. We are looking forward being in a theatre festival where fresh eyes from outside the dance scene can give comment on the show.

LR: I am intrigued by the notion of the “private becoming spectacle” especially in a world where media is full of fake disclosure of private moments through “reality” based TV shows — how have you broached this idea in your work?

KN: The notion of private becoming spectacle came pretty naturally as we were 3 artists who wanted to create individual solos, at the same time had a desire to be part of a show to which we could work in a collaboratively. Our challenge was to integrate these 3 solos. We are interested in offering the audience a voyeuristic experience.

By nature, solo work can be incredibly private. Besides the obvious of working alone, you are at the essence of it all: your thoughts, your desires, your dreams and your body. You can’t get any more private or intimate than that. Yet, the ironic part of it all is we are doing it to display it and offer it to others in the performance arena.

I consider how our very personal moments are shared on Facebook and Twitter …I wonder what really separates our closest relations from public relations as they can know the same very personal information about us all with the click of a mouse.

We did spend one evening during our residency [creating this show] decompressing over a new episode of So You Think You Can Dance. The 3 of us formed our own judging panel. We spared no emotions or considerations for these contestants. It was all for a good laugh after a long day of doing just want these contestants were ultimately after… to dance.

It brings up some big questions about how the most private, intimate moments can become prime entertainment when seen from a certain perspective.

LR: How did you, Amanda Acorn and Elke Schroeder come together as collaborators?

KN: The 3 of us spend a lot of time together. We drink good coffee, red wine and eat chocolate together. But for this project specifically, when my name was pulled for Fringe it was the perfect opportunity to work on a solo and I wanted to be in the studio more with these girls.

Luckily, I got a residency at Earthdance to create my solo, so when the fringe spot came up, the residency offered the perfect opportunity for the girls to come out and join me to share the solo making process.

We worked alone for about 3 weeks, then for a whole week– I’m talking a 24 hour day if we could work that much — we were together, sharing our dances, bedrooms and pillows. We were showing our dances, exchanging feedback, trying stuff out and really challenging what we are capable of within the solo research we were doing.

LR: You are an emerging artist and I don’t think emerging artists get asked often enough: what is your personal artistic vision?

KN: WOW… big question. At this point, I think my vision is to be interested in the work I am making, both from a dancer’s/choreographer’s perspective but also from a personal place. I see the things that surround me in a new light and wish to understand the world differently through the artwork I am making.

LR: What should audiences expect with Ab Intra?

KN: I think if there was a warning or disclaimer message for this program it would be: These characters could appear in your dreams but more likely in your nightmares tonight.

Their stories are intimate, delusional and neurotic. And there will be some wicked great dancing!

Ab Intra
Bonne Compagnie

Direction, Choreography & Cast: Amanda Acorn, Kate Nankervis, Elke Schroeder

Original music: Linedrawing, J.P. Tamblyn, Chris Willes
Production Design: Shannon Doyle
Lighting Design: Kevin MacLoed
Genre: Dance, Physical Theatre
Warning: Strobe Light, Smoking

Venue: 1 Tarragon Theatre Mainspace

60 min.

Fri, July 8 8:45 PM 111
Sat, July 9 1:45 PM 114
Sun, July 10 3:00 PM 121
Mon, July 11 10:15 PM 131
Wed, July 13 5:45 PM 141
Sat, July 16 12:30 PM 159
Sun, July 17 7:30 PM 170

All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)

Several money-saving passes www.fringetoronto.com/fringefest/passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

Monday, June 20, 2011

First Fringe Interview: Alaine Handa of A.H. Dance Company, New York.

An Interview with Alaine Handa of A.H. Dance Company
By Lucy Rupert

Chameleon by A.H. Dance Company info:

LR: First could you tell me a bit about your path in the dance field?

AH: I started dancing at 4 in Indonesia. I remember when I was 8 I played the part of a rice grain. I carried a grain of rice and we swayed from one side of the stage to the other whenever a magical bird passed us. When we moved to Singapore I became interested in tap and jazz and took up figure skating, training long hours until I broke my ankle and it was recommended that I take ballet again to strengthen my ankle. The following year I started choreographing for the dance shows at school and by the end of high school, I knew that I wanted to major in dance at college, to pursue choreography and start my own dance company. I graduated from UCLA with a degree in World Arts & Cultures with a Dance Studies Concentration. We approached dance and dance-making as a way to bring change in the world.

LR: How did you get to the point of creating Chameleon?

AH: When I first started college, I attended Pitzer College in Claremont, CA - a small college in a small town. I had quite a bit of homesickness, culture shock, and reverse culture shock when I went to visit "home" for the first time after living in Southern California. I fell into a deep depression and felt out of place all the time. I applied for a transfer to UCLA my 3rd year thinking that a change of environment will uplift my mood. During that transitional summer, I spent a lot of time with an old friend who was in Southern California. I told her what I had been feeling and she recommended that I read David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken's book on Third Culture Kids. She said that what I was feeling was normal and that there were others like us. That book almost immediately brought joy and tears in discovering there were others like me.

I kept a journal and wrote poetry, prose, and drew my experiences out and brought these inspirations to the studio. I wanted to embody my experiences as a way of therapy for myself at first. Then, I wanted to create a community of Third Culture Kids and a way for us to tell others our stories. I created a Livejournal and Facebook Third Culture Kids groups. The very first draft of Chameleon was part of my senior project at UCLA.

When Barack Obama was elected President --he is a Third Culture Kid and members of his cabinet were also fellow Third Culture Kids -- I knew the time was ripe to return to the project. I discovered that literature, research, and online communities have quadrupled since I started my research in 2003....

for the complete interview check out Mooney on Theatre: