Undressing the Dance Dialogue #1

by Kate Stashko

Creating tension and subtlety The inaugural installment of Undressing the Dance took place on Sunday, September 28th at the Ironwood Grill, with great food and interesting people in attendance. This new series spearheaded by members of DAG is a chance to gather and discuss recent local dance performances, events and issues….over brunch! As anyone who knows dancers understands, where there is food, there are dancers, and therefore, great conversation!

This particular edition focused on the recent Alberta Dance Festival, which took place as part of DSW’s season from September 11th-13th and 18th-20th. The focus of this year’s festival was dance and the image, and each choreographer used an image (a painting, a sketch, a photograph) as a jumping-off point for their piece. DAG members, some of the ADF choreographers, and a small group of local artists were in attendance at brunch, and the conversation covered several topics. One that provoked an especially specific and in-depth conversation was that of creating tension and working with subtlety.

Story-telling was discussed as a means of drawing an audience in and engaging with them. Participants noted that in Jen Mahood’s work, text was employed in a subtle way and was successful in keeping the audience curious about the performers and the work. DAG director Davida Monk also noted how props can create intrigue onstage. “When props or objects have more than one purpose in a work, they provide another way to enter the work or another revelation on the experience of the work.” Monk noted that there is a certain satisfaction for the audience in these multiple meanings and uses for props. Later on, the group discussed the work of choreographer Zahra Shahab and dance artist Pam Tzeng noted that the work included several violent images. She wondered about using “movement that demonstrates violence or oppression as opposed to direct violence onstage.” This began a discussion of the difference between suggesting something and demonstrating something. Monk noted that sometimes it’s more effective to create an atmosphere of threat, which, in this case, leaves the audience unsure of when or how violence will present itself in the work. “There’s something suggested and expressed but not released,” she says. “When the threat is there and doesn’t follow through, it builds tension.” She notes that this suggestion gives power to several different levels and modes of interpretation, allowing the viewer to engage his or her imagination more readily. Although several other conversations grew naturally out of this one, those will have to wait for another blog entry, another time! Undressing the Dance is off to a running start, so further engaging and stimulating conversation is certainly on the menu this season! Keep an eye out for the next event, on October 26, focusing on performances of House by L-E-V at the Fluid Festival, October 22-25 at Theatre Junction GRAND.