The Isolation Diaries: Dance artists Natalie and James Gnam

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      With theatres, galleries, stores, and restaurants shuttered to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the Isolation Diaries reach out to Vancouver’s creative sector to find out what they’re watching, how they’re coping, and where they’re finding inspiration.

      The Artists

      Natalie and James Gnam are dance artists that live and work on the unceded Coast Salish Territories. For the past 11 years, they have codirected the plastic orchid factory. In 2017, they founded Left of Main, an artist-run creative hub located in historic Chinatown. You know them from pieces like Digital Folk and I Care What You Think.

      Comfort food

      We have been doing a bit of comfort baking. Mostly cinnamon buns when we can get our hands on yeast and flour. But overall, keeping it simple has been how we have found comfort in our food.

      Quarantine soundtrack

      Four Tet, Caribou, and Childish Gambino have all put out new albums that have been on a pretty heavy rotation lately. Our three-year-old son has discovered animated Disney musicals, so we have been listening to bunches of Frozen (both of them), Moana, and The Little Mermaid. Also, our little co-op in Kits is normally super busy and active with families and children. But with everyone staying inside, the neighbourhood song birds have really moved into the courtyard and have defined the sonic landscape outside of our windows for the past few weeks.

      Streaming now

      We bounce between Netflix, Crave, Prime, and CBC. The Brooklyn Rail’s New Social Environment: Lunchtime Conversations when the timing works out with naps and online school sessions. 

      Creative or learning outlet

      Online Gaga and Yoga classes. Natalie finally took her first house dance class! Our 13-year-old son is very serious about his soccer and every day he joins an at-home streamed academy put on by the Whitecaps. A few years back, we inherited all of James's family's LEGO and have added a few sets ourselves, so we have been busy building Millennium Falcons, Bat Caves, NASA Apollo Lunar Landers, and Pirate Ships. Natalie has been methodically building a 2,000-piece marinescape puzzle. But mostly, we have been trying to gauge and respect our limitations as individuals and artists. Our daily rhythm of training and moving into kinesthetic and creative exchange has in most ways been suspended. So, we are working on trying to be present, patient and calm as our world and our sector transforms and adapts to the necessary isolation that we find ourselves in. 

      A trailer for Running Piece, featuring Fabien Piché, who alternated the role with James Gnam.

      Fitness hack

      James started running last year in preparation for Running Piece, a solo for a dancer and a large treadmill by Jacques Poulin-Denis/Grand Poney that he toured this Fall. Running has continued to be a part of his practice since. Our soccer player also does a lot of running. And the three-year-old isn’t going anywhere if he’s not running. So naturally Natalie was curious. We were running the Arbutus greenway, but recently it has become really busy with everyone flocking there to get some run or walk or bike on. So now we just run in and around Kits streets. Fitness-hack-wise, Nike Run Club is an awesome app that tracks progress and has some lead/coached runs that are super helpful. James has also been using the immersive running game/app Zombies, Run! And we try to get the whole family out for an evening bike ride every day.