Dancers Dancing plays with perception in The Fine Line—twisted angels
Judith Garay’sThe Fine Line—twisted angels began with a dream. Although it took place many years ago, the Vancouver choreographer vividly remembers the sleep-induced vision that inspired her latest dance piece.
“I can still see it,” Garay says in an interview during a rehearsal break at SFU Woodward’s in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. “It was outside, near train tracks. Everything was blue, grey, and green. There were several people there; they were quite bony. It was quite spooky.”
It wasn’t just a certain creepiness that made the dream stick with her. Rather, what struck the artistic director of Dancers Dancing was that although she found it kind of chilling, not everyone necessarily would. From there began a years-long fascination with perception.
“There’s a fine line between sensing and perception,” the veteran choreographer says. “People perceive things differently. The same person can perceive the same thing differently at different times. In different environments we experience things in different ways. I really think it resonated with me because it made sense I would perceive things in my own way, and it led me to look into how other people perceive things.
“That dream embodies the way I’ve never really felt like I see the world the way a lot of people do,” she adds. “I don’t feel like I fit in with a lot of traditional ways of being in the world. I think that’s true for a lot of artists and for a lot of dancers.”
A former principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company and an associate professor at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Garay has been choreographing since 1979. Graham’s influence is evident in her modernist, flowing work, which has explored everything from the spiritual side of winter (2004’s 4 Winds) to the onslaught of daily news (2010’s Extra Extra). Set to an original score by Patrick Pennefather, The Fine Line incorporates video images by Flick Harrison and will be performed by three Dancers Dancing regulars: Cai Glover, Vanessa Goodman, and Bevin Poole.
Garay says she’s gone through different phases in her decades-long career and has recently reached a new level.
“I feel like I’ve grown up in last three to five years as a choreographer,” she notes. “I totally trust dancers. I’ve realized I don’t have to do it all myself. I can explain and I can show things, but there so many ways to approach making dance.”
For The Fine Line, she turned her obsession with perception into a research project on the way the human brain functions. She pored over books and articles on everything from addiction to hypnagogic hallucinations (which occur in that state of semiconsciousness right before sleep) to synesthesia, when one sensory stimulation (say, the sight of something) evokes another (the taste of something else).
There’s no better setting than a contemporary-dance performance to support Garay’s assertion about varying viewpoints: show 50 people the same work and chances are that each and every one of them will have a different take on it. That’s something that Garay fully embraces and is even hoping for with The Fine Line.
“The more different things people get from this piece, the better,” Garay says. “Some people will see a total narrative and some will get a kinesthetic response. Others will read the program notes and that’s what they’ll look for. I used to be dead-set against program notes. They tell people what it’s about. But for verbal people, it gives them a place to start. I try to always include them now, because I do value different ways of being in the world.”
The Fine Line—twisted angels runs from Wednesday to next Saturday (May 23 to 26) at SFU Woodward's in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.