Last November, the local indie-music and dance worlds met on a tiny platform at the vintage-Vegas-style Emerald nightclub, with big results.
Audiences for the inaugural Dances for a Small Stage point 5 packed the venue’s backroom so much that organizers at MovEnt had to add an extra evening. So, for the second showcase of musicians paired with dancers, the event (a smaller, themed version of the one that happens a few times a year at the Ukrainian Centre) will move to the larger, front room of the mid-century-mad club, complete with dinner-and-show packages.
Sitting in the audience for that first installment was Tariq Hussain, of genre-defying Vancouver band Brasstronaut, whose sounds cross the jazzlike, pop, and cinematic. He so enjoyed the mix of musicians and dance that he signed on for the second point 5 to curate the show with MovEnt’s Julie-anne Saroyan. The guitarist has always loved collaborations with other artists, but he also likes the idea of musicians not serving as background, or sitting at the side of the stage for dance performances. “The whole idea of putting people on a small stage is sort of to force them to be together—this way we’re forced to occupy the same space and therefore to interact a little bit,” he tells the Straight over the phone. “This also brings the dance world to an audience that wouldn’t necessarily watch it. You’re going to get people who go out to see the Belle Game, or people that go to the Biltmore for shows.”
Hussain brings his wide knowledge of the local music scene, and connections, to the table for this Dances for a Small Stage point 5, working with Saroyan to offer up even more offbeat pairings than those at the last event. Of the five noteworthy musicians taking part in the event, electro-soundscape master Loscil works with burlesque star Burgundy Brixx; Andrea Lo, lead singer of the aforementioned dark-pop group the Belle Game, collaborates with tap dancer Jennifer Bishop; R&B songstress Tonye Aganaba joins forces with hip-hop/urban-dance artist Stewart Iguidez; and Christopher Smith, lead singer of Dralms, goes solo to pair up with contemporary dancer Karissa Barry. Hussain himself is working with another local contemporary-dance star, Farley Johansson of Science Friction.
Hussain, who’s worked on a few dance projects before, admits collaborating with someone you’ve never met takes a bit of warming up. “I’m in a band, and because we’re friends and have travelled the road and spent so many hours together, it’s easier to create in a way; you can just say, ‘I don’t like that,’ ” he explains. “Here, you’ve got to get that personal dynamic established, sometimes just talking about stuff not even related to the piece to give you a sense of what the other person’s about.”
For the short work at point 5, Hussain wanted to challenge himself to write a new song. He drew inspiration for it from a piece of creative nonfiction he’s penning (the multifaceted artist just graduated from UBC’s creative-writing program) about growing up in his parents’ home surrounded by South Asian music, “and how there’s no cowboy music in Pakistan”, Hussain says. “So I kind of wanted to write, like, a cowboy song.”
It’s too early in the creative process to reveal how, exactly, the piece will look at the show, but he’s clear on one thing about the matchup of dance and music. “It’s a natural fit, but you don’t see it happening that much in the rock world,” he says. “Yet we see more and more visual support for music. Videos for songs: it’s what you have to do now.” Having live dance bring the music to life? Just think of it as a more visceral visual support—a kind that will undoubtedly pack out the Emerald again.
Dances for a Small Stage point 5 is at the Emerald on Friday and Saturday (July 4 and 5).