“Release your jaw.” “Move from your bones.” “Breathe into the sides of your torso.” These are the kinds of gentle instructions you might hear in a dance class or rehearsal, the specialized language that professional artists use to achieve a certain effect.
But dance artist Deanna Peters realized what she calls Body Talk could benefit almost anyone by opening up a world of understanding and mind-body connection.
“The way the idea came to me was in social media,” explains Peters, the Vancouver ambassador for the upcoming B.C. Culture Days. “I thought everybody could benefit by having these body reminders come across their desk. There’s all this stuff about how sitting is bad for you. But it started in the language: people don’t want to be told about their posture; they get offended. It’s a different way of introducing the idea to people.”
For the past few years, her Body Talk project has taken several forms, from a presentation at a PechaKucha night to posters at the Dance Centre, a blog, and, yes, social-media missives. For each of the three Culture Days, as part of programming across the city and province (not to mention the concurrent Culture Days being held across the country), she will host an event at the Scotiabank Dance Centre that’s a mashup between a multimedia installation and movement class.
The key, she says, is not to use jargon. “I’ve gotten more and more away from ballet language,” says Peters, who once trained at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, but now follows somatic practice—a dance form that emphasizes the artist’s internal physical sensations. “If you’re thinking ‘plié’ you do something different than if you think ‘Bend your knees’.…The lines are becoming much more blurry for me between when I’m working on dance and when I’m not.”
One of the goals, after all, is to demystify contemporary dance, a form that intimidates some people, or at least causes them stress as they try to understand it.
In a way, you could say she’s helping to translate a language. “It’s not that people can’t understand it, it’s just that they don’t,” she says. “They interrupt the experience through doubting themselves. There’s always the saying ‘I don’t get it,’ but they don’t know that it’s okay. So often with dance, there’s not that one thing to get.”
Peters is open to putting dance out there by almost any means possible, whether through shows in clubs and art galleries or via the web and video. She links to almost all of her experiments, including Body Talk, through her website Mutable Subject.
Now the artist is venturing into new terrain as a B.C. Culture Days ambassador, a job that finds her not only hosting events, but recommending them as well. Among her picks for the three-day community-based celebration: grunt gallery’s Meet the Curators talk from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday (October 1); interactive demonstrations and art-making at the Aboriginal Gathering Space at Emily Carr University, on the same day between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and the behind-the-scenes tour of the Arts Factory, 21,000 square feet of artist studios, workshops, office space, and common areas in False Creek Flats, also on Saturday afternoon. (See the B.C. Culture Days website to build your own customized schedule for the weekend.)
“I like going into spaces that I don’t normally have access to,” she says. And she’ll help us access some of our inner physical spaces, too.
Body Talk takes place as part of B.C. Culture Days at the Scotiabank Dance Centre next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (September 30, October 1, and October 2).