Different generations of dancers come together for Things Near and Far

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      Like many good partnerships, the core creative team behind the upcoming dance show Things Near and Far came together over drinks. After that, though, dancers Ziyian Kwan, Ron Stewart, and Anne Cooper took a long, sober look at their midcareer abilities and how best to showcase them.

      “Anne and Ron and I have known each other for probably the better part of 30 years,” Kwan says in a phone interview from her Vancouver home. “But we’ve never worked, the three of us, together. So they were over for a glass of wine and some snacks one night, and we were talking about how, among our contemporaries who are still active interpreters and haven’t gone on into the choreographic field only, there’s just a handful of us left in British Columbia. So I said, ‘Well, there’s that to consider.…Why don’t we do something together?’ ”

      Reasoning that they were “the connective tissue” between the pioneering contemporary-dance artists who went before them and the new crop of kids pushing from below, the three Generation-X performers resolved to commission two works, from an older and a younger choreographer—and when it came time to decide just who those would be, the voting was unanimous. National Arts Centre associate Tedd Robinson and the 605 Collective’s Josh Martin were contacted and quickly accepted their assignments.

      “They’re both really, really at the forefront of contemporary dance,” Kwan says. “And both of them have such a unique signature to their work. With Tedd, there’s just such a poetry and graciousness and quirkiness that I think we were all curious to have a taste of. And then with Josh, I mean, just seeing his work and seeing him dance, the verve of his physicality is completely inspiring.”

      Another factor was at play in their wanting to work with Martin, too: “There’s always the thing where, as you get older as a dancer, you still want to be able to try the things that people in their 20s are doing,” Kwan says with a laugh. “You want to learn some new tricks.”

      In a separate phone interview from his home near Ottawa, Robinson says he’s also picked up some fresh ideas through his choreographic contribution to Things Near and Far—but not necessarily from three weeks’ worth of hanging out with his Gen-X collaborators. Instead, he opted to bring in his own mentor, 80-year-old Peter Boneham, making for a dance experience that’s now four generations deep.

      “Peter’s always said that there should be a position in dance that’s like editor, although of course no choreographer would stand for it,” Robinson says, adding that he might be the exception that proves the rule. “He [Boneham] came in near the end of the first rehearsal period and made suggestions, and we cut more than two minutes from the dance, along with some unnecessary embellishments. He always wants things to be as clear as possible, while I tend to do things with a little bit of a flourish.”

      One thing Robinson doesn’t want to make clear is why both he and Martin have given their very different pieces the same title: Dwelling. “In my piece, we’re building a dwelling. Out of boards,” he says, and then quickly clams up for fear of spoiling the surprise. Kwan is no more forthcoming, although she admits that the choreographers’ decision will add a certain frisson to opening night. “It’ll be something for people to talk about at intermission,” she says with a laugh. “Fodder for speculation!”

      Things Near and Far runs at the Firehall Arts Centre from December 3 to 6.