Thinking fiercely outside the box, MACHiNENOiSY plays with a landscape of cardboard and wood in The Open Spaces Project
When single-monikered choreographer Daelik presents his newest dance creation, the MACHiNENOiSY co–artistic director will team up with set designer-dramaturge Paul Gazzola to strip their surroundings down to a minimum. So much so, in fact, that gone will be all the seating inside the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
Daelik says that converting the traditional theatre setting into a big open space is just one way he’s taking new approaches to his art.
“I was interested in putting the audience in a more active role and giving them a different perspective of dance,” Daelik says in a studio at the Dance Centre, where he’s currently artist in residence, before rehearsal. “I wanted to use the space in a way the audience wouldn’t expect and have them not sitting passively watching but making choices about what they see.”
Although spare, the set for The Open Spaces Project—which premieres Thursday to Saturday (December 3 to 5) at the Dance Centre—is not entirely absent. Gazzola—a Berlin-based carpenter turned dancer who’s also studying architecture—chose movable props that the six male dancers will manoeuvre throughout: two 10-foot-long wooden beams and more than 100 hand-made boxes constructed out of old album covers.
“We wanted something not as a backdrop to the performance but that was part of the performance,” Gazzola says.
Combined, the objects speak literally and figuratively to the work’s theme of space itself: everything from architectural concepts of “masculine” and “feminine” spaces to the external and internal landscapes people inhabit.
“The boxes can be used to frame views,” Gazzola says, holding up one of the cubes, made out of Bob Seger’s Against the Wind album cover. “They can also be used to contain the choreography.” In other words, those cardboard boxes, along with the wooden planks, form an ever-shifting set that the dancers (and the viewers) move through and around, whether stacked to become walls or positioned to delineate borders.
Daelik and Gazzola started planting the seeds for their collaboration in 2001, when the two met as dancers for a contemporary opera in Hamburg. Daelik ended up staying in Berlin for two years.
He shakes his head at the fact that sections of the Berlin Wall are now being reconstructed—to satisfy tourists and bring in much-needed cash to the city—but he says that living in that part of the world had a tremendous impact on his artistic growth.
“At the time I didn’t want to do any of the work being made here, and I just needed to go to another place and see dance and be a part of other things,” Daelik says. “Being in Europe really opened my eyes to what’s possible.”
The continent’s centuries-old buildings, galleries, and museums piqued his curiosity even more.
“I started to think about the relationship between architecture and the body,” he explains, “the way the body can be shaped, how we can put faí§ades up, and how we can alter the body inside and out.”
Daelik starting learning how to move his own body in Vancouver nearly 20 years ago with EDAM (where he met Delia Brett, with whom he shares the co–artistic director duties of MACHiNENOiSY). His choreography is still heavily influenced by EDAM’s contact improvisation, a technique in which physical connection provides jumping-off points, so to speak, for spontaneous movements. But even during rehearsal, seeing the five solid dancers he’ll join on-stage for The Open Spaces Project proves that his vocabulary has only become stronger and more refined over the years: his is a physically fierce yet elegantly fluid style. His thoughtful movements are carefully constructed and detailed.
“MACHiNENOiSY is about theatrical exploration of the body,” he says. “We ask, ”˜What’s a strong image?’ How can we dance in a theatrical way?”
As he and Australia native Gazzola brainstormed about images related to space, they began to compare notes on their home countries, in particular colonization, “the way that the explorers discovered something new, something that they didn’t already have”, Daelik notes.
For Daelik, staking out new territory parallels that of many gay communities: “They’ve found an area, gentrified it, then everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Gender and sexuality prove potent undercurrents: Daelik and Gazzola say the project is influenced by cowboy culture—and just how far male bonding may go in the outback. (Calgary new-media artist Adam Tindale provides video images as well as an electronic soundscape based on a lone guitar.)
Despite the vast scope of material he has to work with, Daelik is more determined than daunted.
“If there’s one thing that can be said about our company is that it’s ambitious,” Daelik says, noting that he’s hoping to take the show to Germany. “It’s ambitious thinking we’ll get a tour for this, but we feel it’s important to get our work out and”¦to bring Vancouver into a different culture.”