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: