Judith Garay is a news junkie, and proud of it. “I don’t think a day ever goes by where I don’t read a newspaper,” she says, on the line from the Little Mountain headquarters of Dancers Dancing, the contemporary-dance troupe she founded in 1999. Still, like many other media-savvy types, she’s finding it increasingly hard to interpret the daily bombardment of news, advertising, and trivia we all endure—and that’s the theme of Extra Extra, which premieres at the Firehall Arts Centre this week.
“It’s overwhelming for me, and I think it’s overwhelming for a lot of people,” Garay explains. “So I think this is a way to reflect on it and try to make some sense of it.”
Known for her abstract yet compelling choreography, Garay has undertaken a typically comprehensive new project, employing 10 dancers, a sample-heavy score from electronic composer Ted Hamilton, and a video collage of found footage courtesy of filmmaker and political satirist Flick Harrison. And in a way, the dancing in Extra Extra reflects her accomplices’ cut-and-splice approach, as it began with the performers assuming poses and imitating gestures drawn from the front page.
“I started the choreographic process from images from print media,” Garay says. She’s quick to add, though, that the new work is anything but static. “It’s very fast-paced,” she stresses. “It kind of starts and then keeps going for an hour. Not to say that it’s at exactly the same level and pace the whole time, but it’s very physical.
“That said,” she adds, “there are some sections that are quite meditative, although they’re not super-long. And there are other sections where you have 10 people doing very detailed choreography in absolute unison, and sections where people are doing different things all at the same time, and it’s like they’re on passion drive, it’s so intense. So it has a broad spectrum of different kinds of kinesthetic experiences—for the dancers and for the audience.”
Her intent, however, is to do more than simply wow the crowd. Garay’s hope for Extra Extra is that it will encourage viewers to examine their own response to media depictions of war, poverty, crime, sports, and entertainment.
“Some of the images that they’re going to see will trigger thoughts that they have had previously,” she says. “Thoughts about things they saw in the papers, or in the news on television, or heard about on the radio. It might make them go back and look at things that maybe have affected them in the past, and maybe things they want to do something about.”
Assembling this complex piece has been a long-term undertaking. Garay began work on Extra Extra five years ago, and at times she found the project both intellectually and emotionally taxing. But she’s heartened that her topic seems even more relevant today than when she first took it up, and adds that while this dance might have a serious intent, it’s in no way depressing.
“It’s thoughtful, and there are parts that are actually quite funny,” she says. “And I think the dancers are going to look amazing.”
Extra Extra runs at the Firehall Arts Centre from Wednesday to next Saturday (December 1 to 4).