Rigorous curiosity at the core of Dancing on the Edge's glint triple bill
Francesca Frewer, Alexa Mardon, and Erika Mitsuhashi mentored one another for these works, which will be presented at the Scotiabank Dance Centre
Dancing on the Edge has never been afraid of taking chances with talented local choreographers.
So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the festival has brought together three new works this year in an unusual triple bill. It’s called glint and it will be available at the Scotiabank Dance Centre over five-hour periods from July 14 to 16.
Each event is a distinct entity. Francesca Frewer’s When I Think It Has Yet to Begin, Alexa Mardon’s a crisis/a party, and Erika Mitsuhashi’s on the cosmic shore all stand on their own and can be experienced individually or on the same night. But what stands out is how closely these three friends worked together, in deep collaboration.
“An initial impulse for working in this way was to recognize that none of us ever want to work alone. Ever,” Frewer declares on a Zoom call with Mardon and Mitsuhashi. “I think I’ve tried it twice, maybe three times, and I’m happy if I never do that again.”
Mitsuhashi makes a similar point, saying “rigorous curiosity” drives the program.
“A large part of my artistic career has been in direct conversation and cocreation with these two,” Mitsuhashi says.
Mardon, who prefers the pronouns they and them, didn’t initially expect a crisis/a party to become a performance. It began in the fall of 2020 with Mardon and nine other dancers writing down their dreams nearly every day in the same document.
“I had just been getting more and more interested in my dreams, especially during the pandemic, and thought I wanted to have also regular contact with my friends and my colleagues that I hadn’t been able to see, really, during those first months of the COVID isolation,” Mardon recalls. “And so we started writing in this Google document and then we started meeting online and creating scores from the images that were coming to us from our dreams, and having conversations about them.”
The images were collected and then they started doing readings with tarot cards or through the practice of carromancy. This involves pouring hot wax into water and reading the shapes. They would then pull a card from the dream archive and discuss how that reinforced or negated messages coming from the wax or the tarot reading.
“Only recently, in November, through a Shooting Gallery performance series, we invited online audience members to receive readings,” Mardon says.
At the Scotiabank Dance Centre, seven dancers will be on the seventh-floor patio offering one-on-one intimate dream readings in what Mardon describes as a “hangout space”.
Frewer’s solo piece came as a result of her curiosity about her relationship with exhaustion. She says she initially wanted to find out what would happen if she danced to the point of no longer being able to continue.
But rather than experiencing the frustration of feeling that she’d reached her limit, she wanted to find out what could be revealed in that moment that is generative.
“Mentally, it’s also a big challenge,” Frewer says. “I don’t want to fall into this place where it becomes some kind of battle. So it requires dexterity, I think, in how I bring myself to it.”
Mitsuhashi has a deep love of props, materials, costumes, and sonography. And she was determined to create a performance that would take a nonhierarchical approach to the five human and various “nonhuman performers”, including sculptures and objects in an installation.
She feels that this approach aligns with Buddhism and animism, which often recognize the potential for objects to hold energy and meaning.
“The audience will be invited into a studio space that will be transformed a little bit,” Mitsuhashi reveals. “The only light source will be from top-down projectors.”
Audiences will be able to walk around the performance space, seeing performers in a “long kind of durational score” that’s also relational between them.
“One of the main curiosities or motors for us creating this triple bill was that we wanted to create a peer-support system where we could all be in and support each other,” she says.
That included mentoring one other.
“So we’re all involved in each other’s work, actually,” Mitsuhashi says.