All this week and next Justine and Alexa and I have bracketed off morning studio time to start pulling together the various threads of our Dance Histories project in advance of their unveiling at Dance in Vancouver this November. Actually, the first of those quite literal threads will be visible to Dance Centre patrons later this month--maybe even as early as the end of next week. That would be Natalie Purschwitz's rhizomatic installation based on the interconnected web of names and places we have collected via our interviews with local dance artists. She has a fantastic design concept for how to represent all of the overlapping layers of influence and attachment and bodily and spatial sedimentation--which I won't spoil here. Let's just hope it can be sustained by the actual material supports of the Dance Centre building...
The last piece of data collection necessary for Natalie's work was completed this morning when Justine and I finally interviewed Alexa about her own dance history. Afterwards Alexa said that she now understood why so many of our interview subjects likened the experience to a kind of therapy. Perhaps because this particular interview came at the end of our process, but more likely because Alexa is such a smart and reflective person, for me Alexa's narrative was at once singularly her own and also so consciously and respectfully connected to so many of our previous conversations: not least concerning the idea of developing an ethic care--with respect to our bodies, our collaborators, and our community.
Among other things, I learned that Alexa dates her Vancouver dance history from 2010. That's when she returned to the city from London, where she'd been trying--and in her words failing--to be a commercial dancer. While shooting a television commercial for the SyFy channel choreographed by Kelly Konno, and that featured Josh Beamish, Alexa learned about Modus Operandi. She promptly went to an Out Innerspace show, saw Elissa Hanson do something amazing, and said she wanted in. She did two and a half years of the program, before gravitating toward a cohort of dance artists affiliated with SFU, including Daisy Thompson, Katie DeVries, Emmalena Fredriksson, Erica Mitsuhashi and, eventually, my colleague Rob Kitsos.
In addition to dancing for and with Deanna Peters, Amber Funk Barton, and Vanessa Goodman (whose upcoming Wells Hill will premiere at the end of November, overlapping with Dance in Vancouver, and thus keeping Alexa extremely busy between now and then), Alexa is also an amazing dance writer and critic. Collaborations with Lee Su-Feh on the Migrant Bodies Project and Brynn McNab on An Exact Vertigo at UNIT/PITT Projects are just two instances in which Alexa has demonstrated her amazing choreographic facility with words. At one point in her interview, Alexa talked about an inspirational moment in a workshop in Toronto with Ame Henderson, in which she reported saying "I'm a writer and a dancer and I'm trying to figure out if both of those things are part of my practice." Mercifully for all of us--and especially for Justine and I on this project--Ame's definitive response was "Of course they are!"
In fact just today Alexa was instrumental in contributing to the short blurb that she and Justine and I crafted for what it is we think we're doing at Dance in Vancouver. We've given the various distributed component parts a three-part title: Our Present Dance Histories, or, Dance Histories Project, or, Vancouver Dance: an incomplete history of the present - Part 1. Because, of course, we didn't get to interview everyone we'd ambitiously planned to (on the way out of the Dance Centre today, I bumped into Joe Laughlin, who is somewhat egregiously missing from the hours and hours of our compiled video footage); because history is never finished and always moving; and because, after two years, we're only just getting started.
That said, here's a roughly chronological list of the 51 Vancouver dance artists we've interviewed (sometimes all together, sometimes in pairs, and sometimes individually) as part of this first phase of research:
Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg
Natalie LeFebvre Gnam
Amber Funk Barton
Justine A. Chambers
Natalie Tin Yin Gan
Wen Wei Wang
Stay tuned for words and gestures from many of these individuals coming to souvenir t-shirted bodies near you this November.