To dance artist Gerry Morita, an RV is not just a recreational vehicle. It is also what she calls “a self-contained performance pop-up machine”.
Parking her 1977 Dodge Tioga in various spots in Edmonton, Morita has performed dance in and around the vehicle in everything from empty industrial lots to church parking lots. Now she’s getting behind the wheel to bring her road show here to Vancouver’s Dancing on the Edge festival, albeit probably in a rented RV this time.
“With mine [the Tioga], the mileage is two kilometres per litre,” she sighs to the Straight over the phone from her Alberta hometown. “I had a lot of mechanical problems last year too; I would fix something then something else would go.”
Such are the challenges when you perform as much site-specific dance as the Mile Zero Dance artistic director has over her career. She says she’s interested in creating happenings, conjuring surreally beautiful tableaux with her dance partners (here, Lin Snelling), a rotating roster of live musicians (including Michael Reinhart, Lan Tung, and prOphecy sun here), and whatever weird and wonderful setting she’s chosen for parking her retro RV.
“In Edmonton, there was this old smokestack, this big phallic thing standing there on this lot that was going to be converted to condos. It was hilarious because there were really rough piles of dirt they were getting ready to excavate,” she remembers of one site. “It looked like we had parked at the end of the world and decided to live there. There was a generator and we had electronic music. It was a surreal escape, to take very ugly spaces and make transformative moments.
“Not that I’m disillusioned by theatre,” she adds, “but sometimes I get frustrated by the limits of theatre, especially in the summer when people want to be outside anyway. I like the variety site-specific work offers me, and then things like the natural sky and elements of outside that are not reproducible.”
Having live music is key, she says. “It makes it have this feel of being at some kind of Burning Man offshoot. Without it, it’s like ‘Who are these weirdos?’ ”
Morita has a sense of humour about it all, but RV There Yet? is not all a joke: as the two dancers move through the windows and doors of the vehicle, playing with some of the camping props from inside it, deeper themes do emerge.
“There’s a place in the States called Slab City where people park their RVs, and it’s kind of like a no man’s land where people don’t want to be found; they’re running away—or they’re just retired,” she says. “It’s this building of space in a mobile way that is really interesting to me.
“Then there’s this whole inside-outside thing, too, which is appealing to me on lots of levels. Women’s spaces are in the home, but here this space is visible with people inside it. Things that are normally private are visible.”
No matter what level you enjoy it on, one thing is clear: RV There Yet? will be a trip—or, at least, a camping trip—like no other.
Dancing on the Edge presents RV There Yet? around town at four surprise locations from Tuesday (July 11) to July 14; look for the show’s Facebook page or keep your eyes peeled for an RV at local parks and industrial sites.