Kate Nankervis' Horizon at Summerworks Festival 2016

I'll be frank, Kate Nankervis is one of my favourite interpreters of my choreography. There's something enigmatic and sassy about her dancing, as though there is always a hidden story, one in which maybe just maybe she kicked someone's ass. But there's also remarkable vulnerability, not necessarily in her physicality but in an intense neutrality in her face.

In her many roles beyond dancer, she explodes these qualities as a decision maker, community builder, and performance creator. She is always frank, tough and unafraid to be vulnerable. It's a great combination and we are lucky to have her working in so many ways to make the dance and performance milieu stronger and more receptive.

Kate's work Horizon is part of this year's Summerworks Festival.  A durational work running 7pm-midnight at Hub 14's intimate and blank-canvas style space (which I also, frankly, adore, so I'm biased there too), it is an effort in choreographic installation, a melding of dance and visual arts processes which people can drop into and out of as they please. The work invites its viewers to choose their horizon lines, their viewpoints on the dance, much as you would approach a painting or sculpture. The individual determines his or her own line of horizon within it.

LR:   I'm unabashedly full of biases with this interview. I will say up front I'm interested in what the horizon is to you as a symbol and as the title or centring image for your Summerworks event. I made a piece in 2007 called "horizonteur" that remains one of my favourites to perform because of the image of the horizon.  

KN: The name Horizon came after so many other titles. But when it came to me it just felt right. It pulled together many of the elements I was working with and hopefully it will also offer a suggestion to how people see the work.

Horizon to me is creating a place of openness, possibility, positivity. Something you look at, but you cannot touch or take it with you.  You can maybe take a photo of it, but you will not experience it the same way through a lens or a screen. And, every time you see a Horizon you are looking at it in a different way from a different spot and from a new experience. 

There is a sense for the future. How we evolve together and move towards something together. In the work, I looking with hypersensitivity, witnessing, play, performer and audience composing together and evolving together.

LR: How does the Hub 14 space influence this work?

KN: Hub14’s offers intimacy. This is so present in Horizon. The space is small, audiences will be invited to get as close as they desire to bodies, the perspectives of seeing and hopefully immersive themselves in the setting or the horizon we are setting up together. 

The space could double as a white box or gallery studio setting. This has led us to play with working with the audience view from 360. Immersing themselves in the zone of performance.  
I am so fortunate to work with media artists Erato Tzavara from Athens and Omar Rivero, Toronto, with movement capture technologies to amplify the sculpture of the body and what can be seen. The visuals are interactive offering an even deeper view and a perspective unavailable for the naked eye. Technically speaking, in the process we are using Live Feed video and live imaging to offer a hyper real time experience.

Since we are an off-site venue we are not structured or bound to the festival schedule, this means for us we can also work in the immersive, little distractions and be building the work with the space, the architecture and its noises, and out of the conventions a theatre offers.  

photo of Kate Nankervis' Horizon by Alejandro Santiago

LR: After your time in Europe and a recent fellowship, how do you feel working back in the Toronto environment? How have the experiences changed your vision?

I am the recipient of 2016 Chalmers Fellowship. My focus for the fellowship is considering what is a choreographic exhibit? How can we set up a space for dance performance? How do audiences come to a dance and how active is their role? 

For Horizon, I wonder how it is possible to give audiences the opportunity to compose their own impression of the work by offering a space which has no obvious seating, no prescribed pathways once they enter, giving them agency to look for as long as they wish. 

I have been looking at simple gallery exhibits layouts and photography principles as ways to frame. Hoping to further some of my own ideas of performance in a gallery setting.  The audience will also influence how the performers work, not only spatially but also through informing the dancers' detailed, embodied response to how the they are being seen and how the audience is also being seen by the performer.  “What if you could look at her forever?"

In the last years, I have done several trips to various parts of the world.  With a once-removed perspective of waves of immigration, as a female foreigner privileged to roam the world, I have a desire to look closer at different colours of skin, shapes of human body, gestures, posture-perhaps-influenced-by-profession, social status, association and culture. 

I found myself practicing various degrees of being seen, stared at and range of comfortability around this. When one does not share the same language, one may rely on sight as a primary source of interpretation. I notice my myself, how quickly one may assume, associate and project individual value on the others. Posture and movement offers other information. 

If you look longer, take time and commit yourself to allowing the layers of seeing inform you, perhaps you will discover more about the human you are  looking at and yourself. 
LR: In all the roles you have taken on what do you value most in each and is there an overarching value for all?
KN: I do have many roles from artist, producer, curator and many of the administrative roles that accompany them. I think I am always looking at ways to connect them more. How does my artistic practice inform the choices I make as producer of a dance event and vice versa. Many of the tasks and approaches work together. 

Hopefully, the value around working as a practice rather than a means to an end offers endurance. Events that are being produced are considered a holistic attention to detail, considering the artwork primarily, then addressing parameters that are set up already or ones that are created in response to the work. I prefer to use the later. I like to make events and sites that are in response to the artistic work. 

I think this is also something that is coming out of choreographic exhibit research. What are ways we set up working situations that are considering what platform dance is on or shown in, what type of frame will the work be set into and how can the artistic work being done be the motivator to the questions around site, venue, platform and audience appreciation. 

Find the Horizon with Kate and her team 
August 4th and 5th 
Hub 14
14 Markham Street (just west of Bathurst, just north of Queen)
Tickets $15
Book online:

Summerworks Festival  2016

more info:

photo of Kate Nankervis in Half Life choreographed by Lucy Rupert photo by Omer Yukseker


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