Dancers explore our humanity
Naomi Brand’s En Route will be performed by members of All Bodies Dance Project. (photo by Chris Randle)
New works and the pushing of boundaries. Just what audiences expect from the Dancing on the Edge contemporary dance festival, and just what the three participating Jewish community members have created.
This year’s Dancing on the Edge (DOTE), which takes place July 7-16, includes work by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, Amber Funk Barton and Naomi Brand.
Friedenberg’s I can’t remember the word for I can’t remember is an excerpt from a work-in-progress – a new solo she is creating with director John Murphy.
“I will be performing but a lot of what we’ve been making has come out of our conversations about memory and the displacement of our memories in the digital world,” she explained. “The piece explores how our minds, our selves escape us and the panic that brings.”
Friedenberg and Murphy met years ago, when she was choreographing a Fringe show in which he was performing.
“He is one of the funniest performers I know and a very smart playwright and director,” said Friedenberg. “I wanted to do research into narrative structure and comic writing, as well as explore being ‘myself’ onstage. Once John and I started researching, we both got excited about turning the research into a piece. Marc Stewart will create an original score for the work as well.”
As for other future projects, Friedenberg said she had recently returned from a residency in Italy where she was collaborating with Italian dance-theatre-performance artist Silvia Gribaudi. “We will be premièring our duet next year at the Scotiabank Dance Centre – it’s a co-production with the Dance Centre and Chutzpah!”
In addition to DOTE, Friedenberg is also choreographing West Side Story for Theatre Under the Stars this summer.
“It’s my first time working for TUTS and the cast is fantastic!” she said. “The amazing Sarah Rodgers is directing – I also met her years ago on the same Fringe show where I met John. It’s a very edgy take on West Side and I am able to bring my contemporary vision to it.”
Barton is also bringing a new work to DOTE that she hopes will evolve into something larger – Village, a 15-minute group piece, performed by members of the response.’s apprenticeship program.
About it, Barton said, “I am always interested in working with narrative and story and, lately, I seem to be inspired by small towns and their intimate interactions. When I travel, I find it fascinating that, as a human race, we all have a similar rhythm to our lives but the diversity of how we carry out this rhythm is what continues to make us interesting to one another. We all wake up. We all eat breakfast. We all go to work. We all struggle to define what our short lives on this planet mean. We all love and have our hearts broken. We all want to be loved. We struggle to attain happiness…. So, I’ve decided that I would like to make a dance that reflects these inspirations; I want to portray a group of people who live by the sea and survive a storm.
“My intention in creating Village for the festival this year,” she continued, “is that it is a starting point for a much more developed work with possibly a larger cast. But, to start, I am working with four dancers – Andrew Haydock, Antonio Somera Jr., Marcy Mills and Tessa Tamura – who have all gone through my company’s apprentice program. So, this is also a special endeavor, as it is giving these emerging dancers an opportunity to perform in the festival, as well as working with them as professional dancers. It’s really exciting to witness their growth. I’ve also decided not to perform in Village because I want to focus solely on the creation of it.”
Another focus of Barton’s has been working to make VAST, her first full-length solo, a reality. “I’ve been doing a lot of movement research and performing works-in-progress in support of it and I’m currently working towards a 2017 première,” she said.
“I’ve also held two more cycles of my company’s apprentice program. It’s hard to believe, but my company’s 10th anniversary is on the horizon, so I’m dreaming about what I would like to create to celebrate that. I’m also teaching regularly and am currently on staff as the head of contemporary at Avant Dance Company in Burnaby.”
And, if that weren’t enough, Barton recently did a residency with the company EDAM Dance.
“This spring,” she said, “with the support of EDAM, I was invited to create a 20-minute work for three dancers. I called the trio Scenes for Your Consideration and it was recently performed at EDAM’s Induction performance series.” The work featured Elya Grant, Somera Jr. and Haydock, she added, “and became a collection of scenes and interactions where the relationships between the dancers continued to shift. When I watch the work, I see them shift between friends, enemies, lovers, siblings – all the various roles that we encounter in our everyday lives.”
Brand’s work for DOTE is about a different form of shifting. Called En Route, it “explores different ways to traverse public spaces and negotiate our place in a crowd. The piece celebrates and exploits the fine line between practical and performative ways of getting from point A to point B.” To the program description, Brand added, “Directionality and determination to get somewhere are contrasted with meandering, circuitous pathways towards our goal.”
The piece will be performed in the inner courtyard of the Woodward’s Building, which, she said, “requires me to think more creatively about the three-dimensional experience of watching a living choreography. The Woodward’s space is also a space with its own complex choreography of people moving through it in myriad diverse ways towards their own destinations. We are excited to build upon the existing dance of that space.”
En Route will be performed by members of All Bodies Dance Project, which she described as “an inclusive group of movers who experience and perceive the world differently.”
Brand launched All Bodies Dance Project in September 2014 with Mirae Rosner and Sarah Lapp.
“The three of us were/are interested in making a space in Vancouver to explore an inclusive dance practice that was open to movers of all abilities,” said Brand. “We have been really fortunate to partner with the Vancouver Parks Board and the Roundhouse to make this project possible.
“All Bodies Dance Project is accessible to anyone and welcomes difference as a creative strength,” she continued. “Our work poses questions about dance and how it is practised: Who has access to dance training? Who gets to make dances? What is the artistic potential of different types of people dancing together?
“By bringing together ‘standing dancers’ with dancers who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids, our practice seeks to challenge the ideas of normalized dancing bodies and make space for a new and innovative community of dance makers. We want to widen the spectrum of who dances and what dance can be.”
All Bodies Dance Project has created two full evening productions to date, See & Be Seen (2015) and TRACE (2016), and have done numerous community performances in local festivals and events, said Brand. “We are interested in continuing to create new and innovative pieces of choreography, allowing new audiences to see the choreographic possibilities of difference.”
In the fall, she said, there will be a new session of the group’s open classes at Trout Lake Community Centre and the Roundhouse, in addition to a new class it is launching for young dancers ages 8-12 at Mount Pleasant Community Centre and a new group at Sunset Community Centre (allbodiesdance.ca).
In addition, Brand continues “to make and perform contemporary dance across a wide spectrum of contexts, from my own solo work to work with professional dancers to dance with diverse populations. I have just completed a three-year residency at the Roundhouse, where I was working with an ensemble of 20 older adults called the Ageless Dancers.”
As well, when the JI contacted Brand by email for this interview, she was on Toronto Island where, she said, “I am working with a group of 24 dance makers from across Canada on a project called 8 DAYS. This is my fourth time at this intergenerational gathering that aims to connect choreographers, to share their practices and create dialogue about the form.”
For the full schedule and tickets for the DOTE festival, visit dancingontheedge.org.