Right away I’m captured by the images circulating the internet to promote Heidi Strauss’ world premiere of These Versions of Us; no leg in the air, no virtuosic leap or grimacing contemporary faces. The photos are of people in various lighting situations simply “being”; highlighting dichotomies of each unique persona.
The beauty in contemporary dance is rarely found in the shape of a movement, nor the physical form of the dance.
Talking with Heidi over the phone while sipping my coffee this rainy morning allowed for some insight to her work with Mocean and guest performers. Happy to give her pause during the very much “doing” phase of the project where they work in the theatre and pull everything together we talk about her process, approach and what it was like working in Nova Scotia. A couple days behind because of flight delays, her generosity in taking the time to speak is not lost on me.
Heidi uses the word “Temporality” to describe how the work was brought to life. In various reflective teachings on life we are reminded of the fleeting and changing nature of existence. Her work reminds the dancers that this place in their lives is the only one they will experience while helping them discover how to exist and play within that knowing.
Weaving together an interaction between collaborators from Nova Scotia and from away over the six month working period was important to Strauss. Designing a framework in which the performers can play with “shifts in performativity” she’s interested in “the way we inhabit our bodies and ourselves”.
Strauss from Toronto appreciates the openness, honesty, sensitivity and curiosity that is very much reflective of the people she’s met in Nova Scotia while working on the commission. She recognizes that this new environment helped to grow the piece from that first day of navigating relationships within the work.
A rarity among local work, there are two male dancers alongside Mocean and one other visiting artist. Sara Coffin and Susanne Chui artistic directors of Mocean Dance are joined by Naishi Wang, Julie Robert and Lukas Malkowski. As the group formed relationships with each other and the material, Strauss reconginizes the different sort of impact each individual brought to the table. Whether through place, gender, history or experience, These Versions of Us becomes a work in which the medium where “imagination plays such a large part” facilitates the “realism and naturalism” that delves into the past, present and future of who we are and how we interact. “Her work captures what it means to be human, the joys, sorrows and complexities of life, and she does it in a way that is thoughtful and surprising.” Says Susanne Chui.
Strauss stresses her company adelheid normally works in less performative spaces and seeks installation type and more public areas to show dance. Engaging the audience is important to her so each viewer may feel less like a viewer and more like a participant. In the next few days the group will be asking “how do we break the separated space?” so as to invite the audience in for a more personal experience.
Discovering the richness of our differences and the layers of personality we all possess are some of the most meaningful facets of developing relationship. By offering a framework and movement strategies for the performers to play with, Heidi tells me, she is able to offer freedom to the dancers so they can “see and experience” from within the work; key to developing a show where the audience can find “personal resonance” while viewing.
As the rain turns into heavy droplets of snow I’m reminded of the beauty in change and the unexpected; looking forward to experiencing These Versions of Us next weekend.
8pm/ Thurs-Sat/ 26-28 April 2018
Tickets: $30 General, $25 Senior, $20 Student