Friday, September 2, 2016

Vancouver Dance History (2006-2016): Post 22

Yesterday morning I sat down with my former student, Alana Gerecke, to talk about her Vancouver dance history. Which, of course, like so many of the artists we've interviewed so far begins elsewhere. In southern Ontario, to be precise, where while training competitively to be an elite gymnast Alana also studied ballet, took the occasional class at Danny Grossman's studio, majored in musical theatre at the Etobicoke School for the Arts, and got her first taste of contact improv from Karen and Allen Kaeja when they were guest instructors at the high school to which she subsequently transferred in Waterloo.

Alana came to Vancouver in 2001 to study at SFU, not least because of its dance program. While completing an English honours degree (where I first met her) and an extended dance minor, Alana took classes with Santa Aloi, Judith Garay, Cheryl Prophet, Marla Eist, Henry Daniel, Megan Walker-Straight, and Conrad Alexandrowicz. Together with fellow members of her SFU cohort, including Melanie Kuxdorf, Jessica Barrett, Laurie McDonald and MFA student Chris O'Connor, Alana also formed Behind Open Doors Collective, a group that specialized in site-specific improvised "hops" around the city (they took turns acting as score captain), in part because they couldn't afford rehearsal space.

Following completion of her undergraduate degree at SFU, Alana took Susan Elliott's contact improv workshop on Saltspring Island, and then a summer intensive with Peter Bingham at EDAM. Peter subsequently offered her an apprenticeship with his company, and for the next seven years (2006-2013), while completing her MA and beginning her PhD at SFU, Alana danced alongside Stacey Murchison, James Gnam, Farley Johannson, Delia Brett, and Anne Cooper as an EDAM company member. As Alana recounted to me, her time time dancing for Peter remains a highlight of her career to date, and the EDAM studios at the Western Front are one of her most cherished dance spaces in the city (as they have necessarily turned out to be for so many of our other interviewees).

Alana has also enjoyed working with battery opera's Lee Su-Feh and David McIntosh--most recently on a remount of David's M/HOTEL and as part of the research process for his Terroir Tour. And as I well know, Alana has also written with acute intelligence about David and battery opera's work in her dissertation on Vancouver site dance, which also includes a superb chapter on Karen Jamieson (whom we must also at some point interview). Indeed, through her critical research as much as her embodied practice, Alana's Vancouver dance history runs much deeper than her years in the city might suggest.

But then, of course, this is part of what we are discovering with this project: that the lines of connection and influence are not simple or straightforward or even linear and that, in Alana's words, Vancouver's dance history is not just "of here," but also always "an intersection of other spaces."


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