Monday, November 3, 2014

Do you know?....Andrya Duff

Another artist in the upcoming Dance Matters Series 1: A Woman's Work is the incomparable Andrya Duff. I had the pleasure of working with Andrya for the first time last year in Theatre Rusticle's Dinner at Seven Thirty, but I have known Andrya for years and felt like I've worked with her many times. 

Andrya Duff and WIlliam Yong in Dinner at Seven-Thirty (Theatre Rusticle 2013). photo by Dahlia Katz

If you know Andrya, you know she eludes definition as an artist, challenges herself and her views at every turn. She is adventurous and relentless on her own path.

Here are my questions to Andrya, a collection of curiosities that we never got to cover during our pre-rehearsal chats last year.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

I have so many! I'm extremely fortunate. 

I grew up outside of St.John's, next to a farm so my days were primarily spent playing with neighborhood kids in the woods. I wasn't allowed much tv or to be inside if it was above freezing, we got pretty creative at entertaining ourselves. My house was near the ocean, not right on the shore line but fairly close. I could see Bell Island from my window and every night before going to bed I would just stare at the lights on the Island, it was so beautiful. One day my dad planted a patch of new grass in our yard, the next day I woke up to a majestic, long maned white horse eating the new grass, I remember thinking 'Magic is real!' Turns out he'd escaped from the farm down the road and my dad was poisoned that he'd chewed up the lawn.

When my brother was born my parents moved us in to town, I ran up to my new room to check out the view, a huge neon red Zellers sign. The second house is still my family home today but to me, it's never felt like home, home is still in the twinkle lights and with wild horses. I don't know if it's my favorite but it's a vibrant memory that still stirs deep nostalgia.

Why did you move to Toronto?

To get out of Newfoundland and make it big...I'm playing the long game, clearly. Toronto was supposed to be a pit stop and I think about moving on all the time, there's so much I haven't seen.

Why do you make work -- as opposed to being solely an interpreter?

First and foremost because I want to perform and I don't want to rely exclusively on others to give me that opportunity. Then because I feel it's necessary to my growth artistically and personally, it frightens the shit out of me, so I have to do it. I'm also curious to find out if I have anything to say and figure out how I would say it. I guess I'm trying to carve out a place for myself and contribute something, not to suggest that interpreters don't contribute, I don't believe that.

What is your favourite performance you’ve done to date? (and why?)

All of them. I know it seems like a cop out but I just love performing and every time I get to do it, I'm the happiest I'll be.  
Biggest peeve?

'Cray Cray' 

How do you feel biking in the city?

I haven't been biking much lately, I've been walking everywhere. I hate my bike, I don't want to hate it but it's just so frigging heavy that riding isn't enjoyable. I'm looking into a new one. Normally I feel fantastic biking, I feel free and in control of my arrival times.

What’s the most dangerous thing you think you’ve done?

Cripes! pick one. I have moments when I think 'Wow. I'm still alive?'. So many terrible mistakes. So many. I've got bad boundaries, there was a few recklessly boozy, drug induced sex-fest years. It was really fun, great, great times. I've always been a bit put out that I exist in this decade, I think I would've looked WAY better in the late 60's early 70's but I also know the lifestyle would've killed me, so...

I remember a couple of years ago in a workshop we both took with Susie Burpee, you said you weren’t sure if you like dance anymore. How you put it was so wonderfully honest and also non-judgemental….how do you feel about dance now?
Yeesh, tough question. I remember feeling that way, it's shifted and I've accepted the harsh reality that while I love dance very much, dance doesn't love me back or doesn't love me the way I want it too and for the most part I'm ok with that but it still hurts sometimes, like all unrequited loves. The past few years have been about redefining our relationship and figuring out how we can be together in a healthy, productive way. 

I started dancing because it brought me so much joy and I noticed as the years went on that I'd allowed myself to be policed by ideas around creativity, success and performance that I didn't necessarily believe, they became very corrosive to my interactions with dance and ultimately myself.

 In moments I still feel frustrated that I don't fit in, I mourn the career I wish I'd had and sometimes I'm angry that I'm not more talented than I am. But then I remind myself if the point is to find genuine expression then none of us should be fitting in, as individuals our output will be different and that's the beauty of it. 

No, I never got to tour with Micheal Jackson but I've been given opportunities I couldn't have imagined and I may not be the best at anything but I'm good a lot of things and failing in some regards has given me a degree of fearlessness I need to navigate all my insecurity and keep trying. It's complicated.

What would be your dream project?

Me, Jimmy Page, Beyonce, Nancy Wilson, Gregory Hines, Janet Jackson, Susan Gale, Britney Spears and 50 cent with workshop facilitator Stevie Nicks.

See Andrya in action. 
Dance Matters Series 1: A Woman's Work
Saturday November 8th @ 8pm & Sunday November 9th @ 4pm
Scotiabank Studio Theatre 
6 Noble Street (Pia Bouman School)

Featuring: Judi ‘JULO’ Lopez (Tor), Marie France Foricier (Tor), Sharon Harvey (Tor), Lilia Leon (Tor) and Andrya Duff (Tor)
Tickets and more info:

You can also catch Andrya and I in:
The Stronger Variations
inspired by August Strindberg’s The Stronger

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
November 27 - December 7th, 2014 

Featuring: Liza Balkan, Andrya Duff, Chala Hunter, Viv Moore & Lucy Rupert
Costume Design: Dylan Bobier
Set Design: Lindsay Anne Black
Lighting Design: Michelle Ramsay
Fight Direction: Simon Fon
Production Management: Charissa Wilcox
Stage Management: Sarah O’Brien
Conception and Direction: Allyson McMackon

Tickets and more info

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Do you know?....Sharon Harvey

Here's the latest "Do you know?...." installation, this time covering one of the dynamic women involved in Dance Matters' first show of the 2014-15 season. Since I did not know much about Sharon myself when I started out to create this interview, below are my questions to get to know more about this unique and powerful performer.

You have a varied experience as a performer/artist/mover -- can you tell me a bit about your history in dance — where you trained, where you work, what kinds of things you work on?

I started my professional dance performance career while doing my under graduate studies at York university where I met my mentor Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge-Badu Dance Theatre an African-modern dance company. Performing and travelling with her open my eyes to a deeper understanding of black contemporary dance and style that were not available to me at the time of in my training, styles such as Horton, Dunham technique, few styles of South Asian, African dance from different regions of the continent and dance style from an assortment of islands in the Caribbean. I later studied and performed with Canadian dance companies within the black dance community and continues to my ballet and modern training within Toronto’s modern dance community. 

I am a certified and licensed dance conditioning specialist with a wide range of body conditioning somatic under my belt, such as BalleCore, Pilates, CI-training, Floor Barre, Franklin technique which I have explored and presented as a program within the dance, education community. 

With this background my approach to my work as a choreographer is to pull on the strengths and physicality of the dancers to tell the story. So when I had the opportunity to do my Graduate studies in Choreography and Dramaturgy at York University I decided that my thesis would expose the strength of the body and how it tells the story with the use of textiles.

This idea that textiles can tell  stories and impact the physical reality of the dancer, is really compelling. So often in contemporary dance we are costumed to look good or reflect an abstract idea of the dance — can you speak about the way you work with and wear  textiles in your work? 

Before my dance career I studied Fashion Business and Design at Sheridan college and I had minored in costume design during my BFA years at York.  My graduate studies Thesis was BODY-DRAPING: How movement can be created from costuming (fabric manipulation), how costuming is created to support the meaning of the movement; and how costuming can bring out the physicality of the dancer’s character.

When working with textiles I go into the dramaturgical research of the topic looking at the dress of that time as historically recorded, how the time reflects the character/topic of that time. In this present project “I Am S.H.E.", the solo is truly a duet with the fabric and the mover as it takes on an antagonist role within the duet and sometimes the scenography of the space on stage.

Further to this, can you tell me a bit about how textiles can empower women?

In researching the meaning of textiles and beading historically it has been a sign of identity, hierarchy, statues, tribes. I was inspired by the traditional ritual of young girls coming of age in parts of the African continent and other indigenous communities around the world. 

The importance these rituals are put in the hands of elderly women celebrating the transformation of the lives of young women through preparation of waist beads, the costuming of the event, how fabric is draped, the colours used for such an occasion, the dances that are passed down and taught in the importance of their lives and the impact that it creates in the circle of life. That’s where empowerment starts for me.

The empowerment of textiles and beading has also taken on a role in the global economical world as women are now being recognized for the creation and transporting of textiles and beadwork from such places as Nigeria, Kenya, Wax-prints from Ghana, Asia, south America to name a few.

What else are you working on? what’s next?

I am working on presenting my next piece of work Solo/SoulsDeep a vignette of a large project inspired by the painting Sugar Shack by painter Ernie Barnes (see image below). It will be presented in Dance Immersions “Queens Calling” February 6-7 2015. Also researching and creating a dance and textile installation using recycled material for Fall 2015.

What is your dream project?

One of many dreams would be to create short fashion/ dance films with collaborating fashion and textiles designers.

Dance Matters
SERIES 1 - A Woman’s Work

This series explores topics related to women’s rights and roles in society, women’s individual stories related to their heritage, culture or experiences and issues related to gender. 
The venue is intimate and casual, with a focus on celebrating the dance medium with its audience. 
*Mature language

Saturday November 8th @ 8pm & Sunday November 9th @ 4pm
Scotiabank Studio Theatre 
6 Noble Street (Pia Bouman School)

Featuring: Judi ‘JULO’ Lopez (Tor), Marie France Foricier (Tor), Sharon Harvey (Tor), Lilia Leon (Tor) and Andrya Duff (Tor)

For more info on the upcoming Dance Matters show and to purchase/reserve tickets:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Photo Comparison: At this Altitude 2013-14

I performed my newest solo work "at this altitude" in two very different locations in the 2013-14 season. The first was an intimate show produced by Forcier Stage Works in November 2013 at Hub 14.  In a beautiful 20x20 space the photos were captured by Walter Lai.

The second performance was an outdoor performance at the inaugural FLUX London Dance Festival.  The work was performed on the gorgeous grounds of Eldon House, the oldest standing house in London, ON. It drizzled and threatened worse all day then the sky opened  in time for the performance. Photos here were taken by Caitlyn Vader.

What I find fascinating comparing the moments captured by both photographers. So here they are.


Stay tuned for the next incarnation of "at this altitude". It will be part of Blue Ceiling dance's next production "dead reckoning" in the 2015-16 season, alongside choreography by Peter Quanz and dancers Elke Schroeder and Sky Fairchild-Waller.

Special thanks to Marie France Forcier of Forcier Stage Works, Lacey Smith of FLUX London Dance Festival and Rosslyn Jacob-Edwards of Dance Ontario.

"dead reckoning" has the generous support of Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Do you know?....Jeremy Mimnagh, collaborator in Adelheid's elsewhere

Choreographer Heidi Strauss' new work elsewhere is described as a world in which people are simultaneously together and alone, which is a fitting metaphor for the collaborative process at times. So much of it happens purely inside one's head, in the midst of many, the ideas may struggle to find effective language that relays the ideas to others.

But the collaborative process can also be joyful, synergistic, communal, instinctual. I am happy to begin a series of interviews that celebrates the collaborative process. By covering viewpoints of artists involved in dance creations, but not necessarily the primary choreographers, I hope to learn more about the magic of collaboration and to offer different perspectives on what it is to create dance.

photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

First up is Jeremy Mimnagh. Jeremy Mimnagh is a multi-talented visual, photographic, sonic and multi-media artist collaborating on Adelheid's upcoming premiere of elsewhere. He is skillful and witty and one of the hardest working people involved in dance.

How did you get involved in creating sound and film/multi-media for dance?

I worked as a DJ/promoter in Toronto in the 1990’s.  The parties we put on incorporated many different artists and art forms.  We set out to create environments for people to be together.  Through a friend I met a woman who asked if I could remix some music from one of my sets for a performance she was doing.  It was a great process.  I really enjoyed the openness, the  trust and the questions.

You have worked through a time of major shifts and development in sound composition and in the types of and ways multimedia/film gets integrated into live performance. Has that shaped your vision for your art form, personally and/or as a whole.

I have always experimented with projection within an audio environment.  As a teen I worked with CRT monitors.  I was a curious kid.  Sometimes playing scrambled pay tv signals and sometimes I would run audio feed through the video input.  I would later learn of Nam June Paik.  Things have changed over the years but I do tend to return to those curiosities often.  Or maybe I use them as a touch stone.  Yes I love technology, but the work has to speak not the technology that supports it.  It is easier said than done.

photo and media in photo by Jeremy Mimnagh 
Heidi Strauss in her own work still here.

As someone who has worked with (been on stage with!) my partner, I am always curious about how couples who collaborate navigate the artistic process and all its ups, downs, stresses, joys etc?  And with a child, is it different, has it changed?

I have a tremendous respect for artists who decide to make this work their life. It is a sacrifice but life experiences can’t be measured by money or beach holidays or the rest.  I talk to my son often about our ridiculous schedule and he is not phased by it.  It is just what we do as a family.  We support one another as best as we can.  It is far from perfect but we love the work we do.

You have so many skills and talents, from videography to photography, sound design, media work that is truly scenic design -- and probably a dozen others that I don't even know about -- Do you have a favourite? 

I love working with the still image.  There is something deeply intimate about people's attraction to a photograph. 

photo by Jeremy Mimnagh adelheid dance in Heidi Strauss' elsewhere

How do you collaborate in the rehearsal studio and in your own space? What is the difference in your process in those two situations?

I have worked in many different creative contexts.  Each creation takes on its own personality.  The idea needs to be the driving force no matter what environment it takes place within.  You always have to be sensitive and adapt accordingly and prepare to be wrong.

photo by Jeremy Mimnagh from Strauss' this time
dancers Justine Chambers and Brendan Wyatt

Can you speak a bit about your upcoming/ongoing collaboration with Laura Taler? I suspect there may be  a whole generation of dance artists who don't know much or anything about her work!

Laura and I have worked on a few projects together.  She is a really dynamic creator.  In 2005 I was on set shooting stills for a film she made called Forsaken.  In 2014 I worked on a video installation with Laura  and choreographer Yvonne Coutts/  This summer we worked on a project inspired by Heidi Strauss’ new work elsewhere.  This creation will end up being a 14 minute dance/installation piece as well as a series of micro pieces that  have been created to animate urban spaces across the country.  This was created through the support of people at Pattison OneStop and the Canada Council for the Arts.

adelheid (Toronto)
presented by DanceWorks
Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Thurs. Sept 25 thru Sat. Sept 27, 8pm
Choreographer: Heidi Strauss
Performers: Danielle Baskerville, Miriah Brennan, Luke Garwood, Molly Johnson and Brendan Wyatt
Music & Projection: Jeremy Mimnagh
Set & Costume: Teresa Przybylski
Lights: Rebecca Picherack
Outside Eye: Ginelle Chagnon

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More 10th anniversary recollections: Collaborators Malgorzata Nowacka and Jenn Goodwin

I was very lucky to work with Malgorzata Nowacka in 2004-2005 and 2006 on two separate projects. Malgorzata danced in my unfortunately titled work "that corpse you planted last year". Despite it's title it was a non-stop sextet that mirrored the imagery of T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" (hence the title  of the work) and I.G. Kovacic's "The Pit", with the dynamism of the six dancers. Malgorzata brought power to the choreography and humour to the rehearsal hall. I think on several occasions, she also brought chocolate.

The next year, I asked Malgorzata to make a solo piece for me on Blue Ceiling dance's first program exploring what I could do as a soloist. The resulting solo was kind of a terrifying experience -- Malgorzata's work demands strength and punch and grittiness that I don't usually associate with myself, personally or artistically; I was not sure if I could carry it off.  I was very pleased and relieved when dancers from Malgorzata's company, The Chimera Project, told me I carried it off and added my own angle to it. First lesson in my first commissioned solo: trust the choreographer. They do NOT want you to look weak in their work.

Malgorzata, if I never told you: thank you for that challenge and that lesson. It shaped things to come.

Here is Malgorzata's reflection on her time with us. She is a busy woman and I am so grateful she took the time to contribute to Blue Ceiling's 10th anniversary celebrations.

I worked with Lucy Rupert in the context of Blue Ceiling Dance a long time ago in two different contexts, as a dancer and as a choreographer.
When I think of Lucy my first thought is that she is a very defined person - long, airy and analytical. Defined in physical form, and in method of thought.

As a dancer I was part of The Corpse You Planted Last Year. The cast was comprised of myself and Lucy's many long-term collaborators. Throughout the ongoing creation process all of the long-term collaborators would refer to moments, metaphors and images of other works they were part of in the past. It was like being part of a mysterious imagination soup comprised of many things, half of which I had no reference to but which always seemed lovely and intriguing.

We spent a lot of time sprouting (?), dying and reincarnating somehow into another state. The movement was full of "wind" and we had many long pathways to complete and states to progress through.
I enjoyed the sprouting of corpse idea, and the burying, although I can't remember if Lucy was that literal. I certainly was.

Lucy also commissioned me as a choreographer to create a solo for her, which I did even though it is outside of my personal mandate to create solos. It was an exception because how can anyon
e say to no to Lucy?  

It is amazing that Blue Ceiling Dance is now 10 years old and has achieved so much.
Congratulations Lucy! I am honoured to have been part of the Blue Ceiling history.

Jenn Goodwin was the 2nd commissioned choreographer with Blue Ceiling dance. She worked on the 11x forgetting project of 2007. The project linked Jenn's creation with my own trio creation for Bee Pallomina, Jennifer Bolt and myself all to the music of Radiohead. It was all about amnesia, at least at first. The starting point was a concussion I had in 1996 which caused a brief period of amnesia and confusion. 

Jenn Goodwin

Well, this story is well known by many of my colleagues....part way through the creation process I was doing a tech rehearsal for Dance Weekend at Fleck Dance Theatre and I fell on stage, breaking both bones in my forearm. I decided to go ahead with the Radiohead show, scheduled for 6 weeks later, determined to just dance with my arm in a cast (and as it was to pass, with temporary pins holding the bones together).

When I brought this conundrum to Jenn -- who had already begun creating some crazy wonderful and powerful floor work for me (impossible to do with a broken arm) -- she considered for a couple of days, then fused the experience of the concussion with the new mess of an accident I'd had into "Just Forget It." 

Since we premiered this solo, I've wanted to go back in the studio with Jenn in any form possible. It hasn't happened yet, but there's still lots of life left in both of us.....

Jenn contributed these lovely words for our 10th anniversary:

When Lucy called me to tell me she had broken her arm first of all I felt just terrible for her!  And then I thought, she may understandably want to cancel or put off the solo I had started creating on her. But no. She said let's figure out how to move forward, and so Lucy's injury and cast really informed what we did. We ended up wrapping various parts of her body in gauze, and the real and proposed fragility and restrictions that were created became an essential part of the work. It was amazing all that she could do anyway, cast or no cast! 

Lucy is a force and I loved creating with her and on her. I am so lucky to have been a small part of Blue Ceiling's 10 big years. 

Thanks Lucy! and Congrats on your 10th. Truly a wonderful accomplishment.

Top two photos of Lucy Rupert in Malgorzata Nowacka's "Martha's Deamon" photos by Jeremy Brace.
Middle photo of Jenn Goodwin courtesy of Jenn Goodwin.
Bottom two photos of Lucy Rupert in Jenn Goodwin's "Just Forget It" photos by Jeremy Brace.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Do you know? ...Paulina Derbez

I recently had the immense pleasure of experiencing Paulina Derbez's performance Shika. It was coming full circle for me in a way: a few years ago I heard this incredible woman rehearsing with voice and violin in the studio next door to where I was working with Fujiwara Dance Inventions (on EUNOIA, which recently premiered in Harbourfront's World Stage 2014, and is nominated for 3 Dora awards!). I knew something really different and intriguing was going on in there.

Fast forward a little, my son Pablo began daycare with a fiesty young girl named Isabella whose mother was a violinist. Guess who?  Paulina Derbez of the haunting voice and violin permeating the rehearsal studio walls at Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre. She had been creating Shika.

As a performer who often straddles disciplines not only over my career but within individual performances, I feel compelled to know more about Paulina's process. She moves, vocalizes, plays, shapeshifts and channels simultaneously and continually in Shika. She is singular. Details of her show coming up on June 25th at the Heliconian Club (yet another place Paulina and I have both worked in!) are at the end of this blog. I highly recommend getting out there for an unusual and unforgettable experience.

Here are Paulina's answers to my questions about her creative life which includes and exceptional and compelling book, recently published in English translation, about a new approach to musical training and practice.

How do you prepare your body for your performances, since it is such a physical act, more than the traditional level of physicality for musicians?
Preparing my body is of key importance for my performances. As you mention musicians don’t prepare their bodies as much as actors or dancers. But this is vital to play an instrument since we do play with our whole body. So before a performance I do a routine that includes strength exercises, stretches, breathing exercises and meditation as well. I also do this before any practice. Is like bringing my self into my body, mind and emotions, in a way that let me perform in a deeper and natural level.

Your work is unique, how do you place yourself in the music/performing arts community in Toronto?

I am a classical-avant-garde musician. Both, classical and avant-garde, enrich each other in a profound way. I play with the Ontario Philharmonic, with the Mercury Ensemble and on the avant-garde side I have my solo Shika:out of the silence the sound is born and the duo with the composer Barbara Croall Altri Suoni. The avant-garde work allows me to transform my self into a sonic character on stage and the classical world gives me the right technique to do so. 
Next Wednesday the 25th June at the Heliconian Hall we actually are presenting our CD Altri Suoni among classical pieces from Bach, Mozart, Shubert interacting with the visuals of Jaime Luján and the paintings of Emilio Giossi.  Also I love multidisciplinary works. Part of this is my interactive book Depictions of a Concert, published by Editorial Ink, where my music interacts with the visual arts of Jaime Luján.  We launched this book at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara 2013.

You've written a book "The Conscious Musician". How did the 'conscious musician' come about as an idea/approach/philosophy?

When I was studying in Lugano, Switerland, I realized that I did not know how to practice violin! At some point due to several tensions I had to stop playing for 2 months. One day, thinking about my relationship with my violin, a thought came to my mind. It was… “Everything is in your mind”… it was a breakthrough moment! I close my mind and I saw my self playing tense. 

Since my teacher was telling me that I was tense, I believed this and so my unconscious mind made it a reality. I realized that if I wanted to change my way of playing I had to correct it not in a physical level but in a mental level. Every problem either with technique or musicality has to be solved first at a mental level. This is called visual motor rehearsal and it is used by athletes and NASA( I just found out about this after years of working with this powerful tool). 

My next revelation were my emotions. I remember my teacher telling me that I had to be more expressive, but he did not tell me which emotion I should express or feel. So one day I was walking in the woods of Lugano and started to play a melody but just in my mind, not with the violin. Then I had for the first time a real contact with my emotions and realized that I had unlocked my emotional world! Therefore I found that to be expressive means that you have to feel an exact emotion, like the actors do, before playing. And then, my body started to be relax at last as an answer of the work with my mind and emotions. 

Because we do perform with our minds, emotions and bodies and the balance between them is vital for a musical performance.

How did this develop into a book?

After years of using all this tools, teaching them and applying this new musical vision I realized that if I wanted to bring it to the next level I had to share it in a wider way. So when my husband and I got to Canada in 2006 I felt very strong the impulse of writing all that I have worked during the last years.  After a few years all this became of what today is my book published by Editorial Ink: The Conscious Musician.

In seeing you perform, you radiate an immense pleasure in the moment, is that how you feel inside it?

Yes and thanks! Over the years I’m more and more convinced that the emotional part of music is the most important one since this is what  the audience will take with them after a performance. To be as authentic as possible on the stage and to develop a profound emotional level in a performance I work with nature images and define the characters I want to express through the sonic world. I find that when you place an image in your mind, this will give you an exact emotion and this will take you to a natural and powerful performance.

What's next for you creatively?

I’m working on my solo performance Shika: out of the silence the sound is born and taking this work to festivals in Canada and other countries. Jaime and I are launching Depictions of a Concert next Tuesday at the artscape of Wychwoodbarns, also a quite unique work, and planning to bring this work to a wider audience with my group Altri Suoni. I’m working with the Italian painter Emilio Giossi on new multidisciplinary works to be presented in Europe. And I’m very happy of working again with Maria Rosales, a great pianist, on a Mexican classical music concert that will be presented on 2015. Regarding The Conscious Musician I’m preparing talks about the book and workshops based on the methodology and vision of the book.

Link to Paulina's book

photos courtesy of Paulina Derbez

Monday, June 9, 2014

10th anniversary Reminiscence -- the mysterious and wonderful Bee Pallomina

Bee Pallomina collaborated with Blue Ceiling dance on "that corpse you planted last year" in 2005,

photo of Bee Pallomina leaving the theatre from "that corpse you planted last year" when a freak fire alarm went off in the midst of the performance. Crazy times.

"Days of Mad Rabbits" in 2005 (see last blog post for lots of photos!) and "11xforgetting" in 2007.

Jennifer Bolt and Bee Pallomina in 11xforgetting photo by Jeremy Brace

She was an outside eye on 2013's "Half Life" and in 2009 Bee and I co-created "watermud/airsmoke" under the moniker Sunnyside Collective. We were both living in apartments in a house at Sunnyside and Constance Ave -- it was a charmed corner, at least name-wise.

photos of Lucy Rupert and Bee Pallomina by John Lauener

Our co-creation was the 2009 commission from Dance Ontario for DanceWeekend and it went on to be performed at Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival and for the Artists Health Alliance at Toronto Western Hospital's Art in the Atrium.
photo of Lucy Rupert and Bee Pallomina at Art in the Atrium

All the way along she has been a thoughtful, witty and enigmatic collaborator. I have found her deft improvisation skills and her subtle and surprising physicality uber-inspirational over these years. I dearly hope we have more collaborations in our future. I think it would be wonderful to remount "watermud/airsmoke" when we're both 65.

Below is a beautiful contribution from Bee about our time working together. As many of you know, she is as skilled and thoughtful a writer as she is a dancer. Interspersed are stills of her notes and thoughts from the making of "watermud/airsmoke".

I have been working with Lucy for about 10 years now. Our work together culiminated in a co-creation, a duet entitled mudwater / airsmoke which premiered in 2009 and is an ongoing project. I always enjoy working with Lucy: she’s an incredible performer and she’s whip smart. She brings thoughtfulness and dynamic velocity into the studio with her.

I’ve been digging around the in the archive of my notes for our duet. I wanted to include the following, as a little window into our process and our dancing together. These notes were answers to questions that were posed by our outside eye, Denise Fujiwara, at the beginning of our process. Included as well are some drawn scores and notes used for a recent performance.

One thing I am curious about is the process of collaboration. How it works, how it works most successfully. How it works without compromise. How it can lift the process of two people to be greater than the sum of its parts rather than just random bits and pieces.

I have thought about this and have come up with a really simple structure to propose, so that we can observe the work of each other and then see how they fuse together. I propose that we each have a solo and then a duet, each approximately equal in length (5 minutes each). Solo 1 water, solo 2 mud, duet 3 air/smoke.

The other thing I have been curious about is the idea of total embodiment and its opposite. The paradox of holding the human form and narrative while embodying something else, another image.

I am interested this idea of no separation, no separate self – that we are all interconnected and that we ourselves are inherently empty. It could be about intimacy: with ourselves, with the universe, with each other. Also about sharing and community: not just the community of people, but the community of all things.

This last paragraph I find sums up where I hope Blue Ceiling dance can go in the future. It is so unwittingly fitting that Bee should put it so succinctly and beautifully for our 10th anniversary blog project. Certainly Blue Ceiling's community will always include Bee.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

HATCH at Harbourfront celebrating 10 years just like Blue Ceiling dance!


Tomorrow evening I will be attending an event gathering together artists who have participated in the last 10 years of the HATCH performance projects program at Harbourfront Centre. This celebration has created a great opportunity to reflect on a past Blue Ceiling dance project, as we participated in the 2005-2006 season of HATCH with Days of Mad Rabbits.

I remember being short-listed and having to go in for a meeting to pitch my project with some Harbourfront staff. I know there were a couple of people there, but I only remember focussing on Tina Rasmussen, trying not to trip on my tongue. I was astounded when I was selected. I figured everyone else who had applied would've been far slicker and articulate than I had been.

Days of Mad Rabbits was created during a period of fascination with literature and residue of comparative cultural studies stemming from the completion of my Masters degree at U of T. I was trying to draw together Alice in Wonderland, including Tom Waits' reinterpretation of it, film noir, T.S. Eliot's volume "Inventions of the March hare" and the chance to throw everything but the kitchen sink into a show.

We had green glasses and a piano, antique chairs with no seats, a Judy in a glamorous evening gown, smoke machines, clockwork gobos, a sing-a-long, and probably some other stuff I've forgotten about.

Oh right....the puppet (made by Noah Kenneally of course). 

Usually my pieces have no props or sets, or very minimalist scenic design outside of lighting. Days of Mad Rabbits was mad.

I had three performers -- Caroline Niklas-Gordon, Bee Pallomina and the incomparable mover (but not exactly a dancer) Noah Kenneally -- who dove in with great faith and play. Looking back, I am amazed they never told me they were confused or confounded by what I was doing. They never said no. Even when I said "ok, it's the end of a non-stop 50 min show so let's spend the last 3 minutes running and jumping while the smoke machine is on."

Visual artist Monika Berenyi helped me with sets and props and Robin Dutt did lighting.  They too came along for running-jumping-in-the-smoke ride. I was lucky to have such a game group of collaborators. I am sure I thanked them then, but I thank them again here, with more perspective on some of the ridiculousness I asked of them. Thank you Caroline, Bee, Noah, Monika, Robin!

We used most of our time (one week) in the HATCH residency to play and rehearse on stage what had been loosely created in the studio before our time at Harbourfront. I can't believe we made a 50 minute show happen with almost nothing, banking on the gifts of space and crew and the promise of box office receipts. Mad.

The premise was that Alice (me) and the Mad Hatter (Noah) were doomed but in love. The White Rabbit was a double agent (Bee Pallomina) in the guise of working for the plights of both Alice and the Queen of Hearts (Caroline Niklas-Gordon).

The Mad Hatter was an obnoxious drunk.

The Queen a twitching unhappy soul.

Alice a tortured angsty teenager.

The White Rabbit a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Oh yeah, and Alice sang.

This was still in my days of clinging to my musical career, which to be honest I had long abandoned at heart but could not admit. I sang two songs I had written. They weren't bad songs. They were actually really pretty good, but they were definitely not yet confident in themselves, as new songs often are.

Paula Citron reviewed it. She said I was "a choreographer who is unafraid of making her audiences think, which is a good thing". And that was lovely to hear. She also said I sang a little off-key. Not so thrilling to read. But as anyone who has performed at the Studio Theatre at York Quay Terminal knows, the space is sonically dead...without a microphone, there was no way for me to hear myself. I am sure I was off-key, but no one wants to read that about themselves in the Globe and Mail.

Music career: over.
(I'm a better singer now that I've admitted that).

I remember the crew working on our show were particularly mystified by us. What the hell were we doing? Youngsters, playing with too many gobos and scatological music.

What the hell were we doing?

My favourite moments of the production were assorted mistakes and jokes in rehearsal that remained in the piece.

  • Noah and Bee becoming opium smoking caterpillars, literally doing belly-down caterpillar crawls and racing each other to the edge of the stage on their bellies, laughing 
  • Bee jumping down the rabbit hole by doing a dramatic knee-fall through a seatless chair.
  • Caroline's jacket seams tearing and the Queen of Hearts had her Incredible Hulk moment
  • Melanie Gordon running in to shoot dress rehearsal with no idea of what the piece was about or what it would look like or who was in it and then running out again because she had somewhere else to be immediately (thus all the lovely shots here are by Melanie!)
  • using the lid of a hatbox as a tray for glasses
  • forcing everyone to sing Tom Waits' song "Time" with me. 
  • Bee and me gossiping at centre stage while Noah and Caroline raced around us

Days of Mad Rabbits remains my most absurd and incoherent work and I love it for that.  It was made with such a sense of
desperate play, a need to break away from trying so hard. HATCH was a perfect incubator for releasing a more rebellious part of my spirit, a part that doesn't care what people think or if they 'get' what I'm doing. Heed the muse! Chances are someone else is hearing her too.

My involvement in HATCH catapulted me into a new phase of my dance-creating and performing. The next step was to strip it all back into solo works.  A whole and different kind of madness.

 Bloody hell. We all look so young.

Bee Pallomina, Noah Kenneally, Lucy Rupert, Caroline Niklas-Gordon

all photos Blue Ceiling dance 2005  copyright Melanie Gordon
thanks Melanie!