Friday, July 8, 2016

ps: We Are All Here -- Interview #2/3 Jenn Goodwin and Syreeta Hector

The second instalment of ps: We Are All Here Festival artist interviews is a compilation of Q&As with Jenn Goodwin and Syreeta Hector who share a program with the team of Alexa Mardon and Erika Mitsuhashi tonight July 8th at 8pm.

If you are up for an evening of dance in the city you can check their show out, stay for the afterparty and then jet over to Factory Theatre for the 1130pm show of "little fires", the Polynomials/Blue Ceiling dance production that is part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. You will not be sorry for going to either show.

Jenn Goodwin is an artist I've admired for a long time and she was the second choreographer I commissioned through Blue Ceiling dance to make a solo dance for me. During the process I broke my arm and Jenn, in her usual quick-thinking and apparent love of accidents and minor, mundane catastrophes reshaped her work to acknowledge the broken bones in a way that freed us both as collaborating artists and made an unforgettable contribution to the production, coincidentally called "11 x forgetting."

From that experience I learned not only is Jenn the coolest chic in Toronto dance, but she is also deeply compassionate, able to make ideas and challenges coalesce in charming and compelling ways and she never denies the reality of the moment in the process of making art.

Here's a quick interview with this awesome lady, Jenn Goodwin.


LR: Your work often involves mistakes, accidents, repetition — what do you think makes this an undercurrent through out your work? I often think of your work in a “groundhog’s day” prism — in the best way possible.

JG: I think I work with these themes because they are rich in humor as well as quite sensitive and touch darker sides of human nature. I like to mine these areas for content that lay within ones own, and others mistakes "failures" and accidents, and what we even choose to see as mistakes or failures vs. a path, process or journey steeped in real life. 

There is equal part fear and acceptance for me of inevitable stumbles and awkwardness, knowing there are teachings, fragility, heartbreak, pathos, humility, resilience, growth and grit within these places. I like looking at the drama, vulnerability and triumphs in the everyday and the repetitious realities of our day to day, magnifying it through choreographic tools. 


LR: You’ve been in school this past year — how does it feel to be away from that and creating for a dance festival?

JG: I am loving school. I'm feeling very lucky to be able to go back to school and be a student (officially) at this phase of my life. I was hungry for new information and experiences. But it is also great to have a bit of a break from the books and be more in my body as I think my brain was about to explode. 

This solo is really new and still in progress and performing work pushes it into new places, and makes shit get real fast, so I'm grateful for a chance to show it and get some feedback also. And the Lovers (the TO Dance Community Love-In directors) are truly lovely and really caring and smart curators and producers.  Love those Lovers!

LR: How do your studies impact your creative process — am I right in thinking that you are studying something related to museum/curatorial studies? 

JG: I am going into my second year of Curatorial Studies at The University of Toronto.
I think being in school encourages me to slow down a bit and go deeper into my research. To spend more time thinking and being, rather than all doing. It has been a year of learning about learning and following new threads. The library is my new favorite hang out. It’s so quiet!

LR: after many years of creating, performing, curating, organizing, making films, events, babies, studying, and moving through health challenges, what keeps you at it? So many artists answer this by saying “because I'm an artist and that’s what we do.” which is totally valid, but I think there’s something more to it, there are specific things that draw us back to the fire…

JG: I tried to give up dance once or twice in my life, because I was broke, or thought I was toiling away in obscurity - and just thinking about not having dance in my life was upsetting and I couldn't step away from it, thankfully.  I am glad I stuck it out, while also expanding my skills so that I can make a living in the art world from multiple angles. 

I love producing and curating and trying to support artists’ visions and endeavors, and my own performance and dance has taken me across the globe and given me a voice. It has connected me to a truly generous and incredibly talented community and I met many of my besties in dance classes or on dance floors. 

Also I have to give a lot of credit to my husband who has always had my back through motherhood and health issues to get back in the game/studio/stage/dance floor etc. 

LR: What is your dream project — in any or all of the wonderful avenues you work?

JG: So many! Dance, film, curation, independently, in institutions. Let’s see, I would like to take over a site like a home or school, or somewhere like AGO’s Education Commons with those huge multiple tables, and invite artists to take the narrative or structure of the space as the common ground but activate it with their own concept through performances and installation.  It may end up to be my home! I’ll keep you posted.
Oh and another one comes to mind…

I've been working on a documentary about back up dancers on and off for years but I haven't been able to get it off the ground yet. Reading Patti Smiths- M train, she notes her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith says "not all dreams need to be realized" and I wonder if this project will be one of those or it will one day come to fruition. 

But even the research to date has been so exciting and I got a chance to interview many inspiring people like Venetta Fields- one of Tina Turner’s first back up dancers, Cheryl Cooper (Alice Cooper’s wife), Daisy Press- choreographer for Chromeo, Santigold’s dancers and Toronto’s own Gadfly. 

And in particular the S1W- who are Public Enemy’s "back up dancers.” Though they don't go by that title and told me not to call them that, in a very kind way :) They said in their 25 years in the band this was the first time they were asked for an interview. I was floored. I hope to revisit the conversation. 


But really, I feel like just doing what I'm doing is pretty damn dreamy.

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The second half of this post is a rapid fire Q&A with Syreeta Hector whose work Identity will be performed by Jesse Dell and Peyson Rock. A powerful dancer, no doubt her creative fire holds that same strength. I am excited to see her choreography. And I wish I'd asked her even more questions.

LR: What interested in you in making a work about the space between or the distinction between performer and person, the identities embedded in these aspects of self?

SH: Even when we aren’t portraying a character while dancing on stage we are practicing our “performance” self. This self is different from how we act at the grocery store. Is there a connection between my grocery store self and performance self? Or are they totally different? 

LR: After years of being known primarily an interpreter of others’ work  what aspects of yourself do find illuminated through choreographing/creating?

SH: I find that my personal experience and movement history comes through in my work. At one point in my life I was discriminated against because I enjoyed ballet and am black. The fact that I've trained in both ballet and contemporary dance is jus as much a part of who I am. This type of movement is embedded in my bones. 

LR: What are you drawn to most in creation — ideas, form? tasks, states of being? imagery, transformation?

SH: Patterns. Lines. Repetition. Fast physical movement.

LR: What does the inclusion of Identity in the ps: We Are All Here Festival by the TO Love-In mean to you and to the work — where do you think the work will go next?

SH: The Love-In is awesome. It supports local work that can speak to both positive and negative aspects of our Canadian performance community. It's also invested in bringing artists from around the world into our local dance community. The people who run it are fearless!

I’d like to extend this piece. In dance I feel like we often avoid the idea that gender assumptions, racism or even shadism lives within our community. Sometimes we think these divides exist in far off places...like America! Activism movements to highlight black lives and Indigenous inequality are coming to the forefront, but holy shit what year is it?

LR: What is your dream project/job/work situation/life in relation to dance?

SH: Good question…That answer is always changing. 

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See them tonight!
Alexa Mardon and Erika Mitsuhashi
Jenn Goodwin
Syreeta Hector

July 8th 
All performances start at 8pm, doors at 7:30pm
360 Geary Ave

Friday night parties from 10pm-2am.

Tickets at Eventbrite or at the door.
General admission: 1 evening $15, one week pass $25, two week pass $45
For more information: tolove.in@gmail.com




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