Out Innerspace Dance Theatre’s major new multimedia work, Bygones, uses projected light to create “walls” that bodies pass through, and to carve out chambers where they contort and fall through space—all before cutting to black again.
Bygones’ elaborate play of light and dark and bodies in constant flux centres around the theme of change.
“In our lives there’s so much changing and yet so much not changing, and yet there’s that reflex that you don’t want it to change,” explains co–artistic director Tiffany Tregarthen, on the phone from Montreal, where the troupe is on tour before Bygones’ West Coast premiere here. “There’s the reflex of feeling like things are ever-changing and yet feeling like you’re stuck. So it feels disoriented, and we’re working with images of perpetual falling. There’s something so vital about that reflex to wish it was better.”
If any local company has figured out a way to ride changes, it’s Out Innerspace. Not only have Tregarthen and long-time partner David Raymond seen their performance careers soar as standout talents in Kidd Pivot, the company behind Crystal Pite’s international sensations, such as Betroffenheit and Revisor, they have also run a successful training program called Modus Operandi, all while creating ambitiously cinematic-feeling works for their own troupe.
This has meant a year that’s included a Revisor premiere and tour, and the October world premiere of Bygones at Bulgaria’s One Festival, all while checking in on the students and instructors at Modus Operandi. In fact, you could say multitasking is their m.o., or at least is in their DNA.
“Even at the start of our careers, David and I have been blurring choreography and dancing and teaching—from the beginning we’ve been seeing that all as one practice. That’s how we met and that’s how we function,” Tregarthen says, then talks about the work she and Raymond have done in town with everyone from 605 Collective to Wen Wei Dance. “We have phenomenal people around us all the time.” The work for other companies? “It just feels like fuel for the next thing,” she enthuses.
Like their last Out Innerspace creation, 2016’s Major Motion Picture—an Orwellian nightmare using interactive infrared technology—Bygones has taken more than two years and several residencies to create. That’s due only in small part to juggling touring for other shows and running a school. It’s mostly because of the technical innovations and intricate cues that Out Innerspace’s creations require.
“We knew we wanted to work with Eric Chad as our video director, to shape the light through haze as a kind of architecture and play with the thresholds of light and dark,” recalls Tregarthen, who dances with Raymond in Bygones, along with Renée Sigouin, Elya Grant, and David Harvey. “At the time we didn’t know it, but looking back, we were really looking at this pact between creation and destruction.”
At the same time, Tregarthen and Raymond, notorious cinephiles, were watching a lot of old Andrei Tarkovsky and Béla Tarr films, noticing the way the directors shaped light.
The troupe experimented with those ideas, bringing in long-time collaborator James Proudfoot, also a lighting designer, to add even more complexity to the illumination—and the ever-shifting darkness.
The duo also tapped avant-garde selfie master and multimedia sculptor Lyle Reimer, better known to his 150,000 Instagram followers as Lyle XOX—right before the Vancouverite hit celebrity status in New York City’s fashion scene.
He’s designed an elaborate mask, gloves, and other costume elements for Tregarthen to wear in the piece—creations that she feels fit perfectly with its themes.
“We were just realizing the pact between creation and destruction and things that are discarded or broken, and Lyle really looks at giving new life to things that are broken, through collaged masks,” she explains, adding she and Raymond gave him words like Bigfoot, mythical creature, chimera, deity, and scavenger to work from. “It was thinking about this epiphanal moment where things that are broken can be rearranged and have a new order and how important that creative, generative force is. It’s like a counterforce to the more destructive force in the work.”
And, as part of the process, Tregarthen and Raymond also collaborated closely with sound designer Kate De Lorme, who helps bridge together a soundtrack as strange and striking as those for the rest of Out Innerspace’s work—going back to their breakout piece, Me So You So Me, and its unforgettable freak-out rhythms by Japanese iconoclast Asa-Chang.
“David and I have really eclectic music tastes,” Tregarthen admits. “We kind of unapologetically select sounds or playlists that don’t go together. They suggest the logic of this world, the fantasy element.”
Amid all the components that have gone into Bygones, Tregarthen identifies a single factor as the most challenging. “Not wanting to be seen but having to see,” she says without hesitation. “Every night is different. It depends on the theatre how far back in the space we have to go so as not to be seen. It feels like we’re more exposed than we are—it feels like we’re losing the magic.
“The dancers have nerves of steel! Backstage, there’s strings everywhere and we’re in the dark climbing over each other,” she adds. “And I do not have great night vision.”
Out Innerspace Dance Theatre presents Bygones at the Scotiabank Dance Centre next Wednesday to Saturday (December 11 to 14).