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:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Toronto Fringe Festival

Allo allo!
So the days of struggling and straining in my own creative process are done (for now) and I'm on to a new project for this blog. In the coming days I'll be posting mini-interviews with the dance artists and producers of the dance shows happening at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival.

I suspect it'll be really interesting and I hope you will all take a minute to read the interviews and get bums in seats to support these talented guys and gals. Already I'm encountering jewelry design, multi-culturalism, plural realities, reinventions of fairy tales and warnings of chocolate and ballistic movement.

Stay tuned!