Page 1

June/July/August 2017

Dance Central A Dance Centre Publication

Performing Space The Biting School A conversation with Arash Khakpour Page 2

Fall Notes by Mirna Zagar Page 7

Boombox A conversation with Katie Lowen and Diego Romero Page 8


Welcome to Dance Central

The B

Welcome to the summer issue of Dance Central, and to the continuation of Emerging Bodies, a series about the experiences of young dance artists at the early stages of their professional career in one of the world's ten most unaffordable cities. We begin with a conversation with Vancouver dance artist Arash Khakpour, co-founder with his brother Aryo, of the dance/theatre/performance art collective known as The Biting School. This issue also features a conversation with Katie Lowen and Diego Romero, two of the creators, with Ileanna Cheladyn, of Boombox, a mobile research and performance space built into a 50-foot semitrailer. The conversation centres on what is involved in developing a performance space for emerging

Emerging Bodies: A conversation with Arash Khakpour

dance artists in a city whose average one bedroom apartment now rents for $2020 per month. As always, we thank all the artists who have agreed to contribute and we welcome new writing and

(Note: since we have the same initials, the questions are marked DC for

project ideas at any time, in order to continue to

Dance Central)

make Dance Central a more vital link to the community. Please send material by e-mail to mem-

DC: The Biting School is unusual in that it explicitly combines theatre,

bers@thedancecentre.ca or call us at 604.606.6416.

dance and 'performance art'. What do you think of when you use that

We continue to look forward to the conversation!

term, and what do you invite your audience to imagine?

Andreas Kahre, Editor

AK: That has come up in a number of interviews and at our shows, where people ask: 'Is that performance art?' Our reply usually is: You have to come and experience it and then you tell us what you think it

2

Dance Central June/July/August 2017


Biting School is. That's what Aryo and I have decided: We want to find out,

to find out how close and comfortable we could get in ten

and it's quite exciting to watch the conversations where one

minutes of having one performer and one audience member

person says: 'This is dance', and others say 'No, this is per-

in one space, and how I could break the expectation that I was

formance art'. For me, performance art lies in the practice of

going to 'dance for them'; when we were really creating this

wanting to create an environment that leaves you with an ex-

show together and the audience member’s behaviour could

perience, wondering what the inherent question(s) in the work

completely change the performance. It took place in a very

were, how it affected your body as a viewer? My work has

beautiful area inside a tree, which felt private, like a magical

been leaning in that direction, for example, at the 2016 Vines

cavern, but I also did it downstairs at The Cultch, and I am

Art Festival, in a piece called Booth Connection which was

planning to do it again, using a Car2Go and taking people to

essentially an intimate experience with one audience mem-

different locations. Some people called that performance art,

ber at a time in a somewhat closed environment. The idea

but I still think it is a dance piece where the audience member

was to say, 'You have expectations when you come here, but

becomes an actor and for ten minutes it becomes our 'play'.

let all that go and see what happens.' We started with a very theatrical frame but then allowed it to become very personal

DC: Does the distinction between dance, theatre and per-

and without expectations. In the beginning, potential audience

formance art matter while you are making a piece, or do you

members had to enter a lottery draw, and only one out of ten

think about that only after you have created the work?

people would get in (sometimes more than ten). My goal was Dance Central June/July/August 2017

3


Emerging Bodies: A conversation with Arash Khakpour

brother killing the other — in a ten–minute version at Harbour Green Park in Coal Harbour, at the statue of King and Queen. It was very interesting to be in this new part of town, and it went well. We had also collaborated on a short film, called Erebus Leakage, together with some good friends, including Parjad

AK: I don't think it matters. In fact, the more we make it matter the more dangerous it becomes in terms of slipping, or going in a direction we don't intend to. Aryo will have his own take on this, but for me the question is 'What am I struggling with in my body, in my past and my history and where I live. What are my worries and my frustrations?' In attempting to find an answer, or a way to ask the question, I may find myself in a car, or in a tree — or on stage. The more I learn about choreography and directing, the more I realize it is important not to be tied to one form of work or what I think that form is. For example, in an offshoot work Aryo and I decided to work separately in a container called the Boombox that my friends Diego Romero, Ileanna Cheladyn and Katie Lowen have been working at. We decided to work separately and then to see what we would come up with. I worked with Elissa Hanson and I used yarn. The question was how to deal with gender in that space. We worked with sausages on pink strings, Elissa created an entire world that was totally dance, but I loved it when some people came and said, 'That's performance art or It makes me think of performance art', perhaps because it took a long time to develop at times. It depends on what people know and what they expect. Some people who come to Dancing on the Edge expect dance, and how they interpret what they see depends on their interests. I made a piece with Aryo called HELMEAT, which includes one single line of text, but a majority of people thought it was theatre, maybe because it shows a small world that includes props and in an abstract way tells the story of a man who has been through trauma. To some people, this was a disappointment, but to me it was satisfying to see people come and engage with the underlying questions and work it through in a live performance. DC: Do you create collectively, or individually, and how do you negotiate working together as a team of brothers? AK: At the beginning, after Aryo had done his theatre training at SFU and I had trained at Modus Operandi, we just thought we would like to do something together. Then The Dance Centre offered us a spot in the Vancouver Biennale Festival. We didn't know if this would work, if we could get along, and so we decided to work with the story of Cain and Abel — one 4

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

Sharifi, who deserves a lot of credit. He is also from Iran and moved here, studied directing and now works as a scenographer and is the Associate professor of scenography and stage design at the University of the Fraser Valley. Parjad could not commit to the company with Aryo and I but we agreed to work together whenever we could. He has been a very important collaborator ever since our first Cain and Abel project, as the lighting designer, video designer and outside eye. DC: Watching both you, it isn't immediately apparent that one of you is a dancer and one is a theatre artist; you both appear comfortable in either mode. How do you experience being a dancer/actor/ performer from the inside? AK: We have an image of what theatre and dance are, but Aryo's interest always goes toward movement, and I am always interested in using text and hyper theatrical experience. We are both also very much into abstract thoughts and ideas, and it is important just to be aware of our tendencies and how to deliver what a project needs. With Cain and Abel we felt that I wanted to explore violent, loud expression in order to force the audience to be engaged. Aryo tends to go in the opposite direction. I will push for more, and he says 'No, it's too male' which I realize but it’s also what I liked about the way we were going in the beginning. So, with that in mind, we decided to be 'The sisters' in the second half of the show inspired by Genet's The Maids, we tried to use that maleness to see where it can go and move passed it. Audiences identify it more as theatre because there is more text from the play and less extreme movements. We are literally maids—as guys in beards. We wanted to embrace the more psychological aspect, being aware of the possibility of appropriating the female narratives/ stories as male bodies, and to dive into our fear of what that feels like. There were two very special female collaborators involved in the project, Sophie Tang and Elika Mojtabaei that helped us so much with staying on the right track outside of doing their part in the project (Sophie worked on lighting and Elika worked on costumes). And there was of course Alex Mah who we have worked with on every project as the sound designer/composer and he will always challenge us in every way and I love that. We even considered inviting an all-female audience, but that seemed contrived, and the real question for us was, 'how do we embody female roles in this tragic story?'


"For me the question is 'What am I struggling with —in my body, in my past and my history and where I live? What are my worries and my frustrations?' In trying to find an answer, or a way to ask the question, I may find myself in a car, or in a tree — or on stage."

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

5


Dance Central The Dance Centre Scotiabank Dance Centre Level 6, 677 Davie Street Vancouver BC V6B 2G6 T 604.606.6400 F 604.606.6401 info@thedancecentre.ca www.thedancecentre.ca

Emerging Bodies: A conversation with Arash Khakpour We wanted to deal with the fear of being siblings and of

Dance Central is published every two months by The Dance Centre for its members and for the dance community. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent Dance Central or The Dance Centre. The editor reserves the right to edit for clarity or length, or to meet house requirements.

losing touch.

Editor, Art Director & Layout Andreas Kahre Copy Editor Hilary Maxwell

ing their curiosities while performance art is struggling to

Contributors to this issue: Arash Khakpour, Katie Lowen, Diego Romero, Mirna Zagar Photography: Angel Lynne (cover), Dayna Szyndrowski, David Cooper

DC: Theatre audiences have a certain makeup and set of habits, and I observe that dance audiences are expandmaintain a constituency, in part perhaps because it has lost sustained support from places like the Canada Council and institutions like the Western Front and now mainly pres-

Dance Centre Board Members Chair Ingrid M. Tsui Vice Chair Josh Martin Secretary Margaret Grenier Treasurer Matthew Breech Past Chair Beau Howes, CFA

ents work episodically, in festivals like LIVE. Do you have a

Directors Carolyn Chan Eve Chang Jai Govinda Anndraya T. Luui Starr Muranko

ing work based on aggression in my body, which I put into

Dance Foundation Board Members Chair Linda Blankstein Secretary Anndraya T. Luui Treasurer Jennifer Chung Directors Trent Berry, Kimberley Blackwell, Praveen K. Sandhu, Janice Wells, Andrea R. Wink, Dance Centre Staff: Executive Director Mirna Zagar Programming Coordinator Raquel Alvaro Marketing Manager Heather Bray Digital Marketing Coordinator Katrina Nguyen Venue and Services Administrator Robin Naiman Development Director Sheri Urquhart Technical Manager Daniel O'Shea Accountant Elyn Dobbs Member Services and Outreach Coordinator Hilary Maxwell Member Services and Development Assistant Anna Dueck The Dance Centre is BC's primary resource centre for the dance profession and the public. The activities of The Dance Centre are made possible bynumerous individuals. Many thanks to our members, volunteers, community peers, board of directors and the public for your ongoing commitment to dance in BC. Your suggestions and feedback are always welcome. The operations of The Dance Centre are supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Province of British Columbia, the BC Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver through the Office of Cultural Affairs.

sense of your audiences and their habits? AK: I have been thinking about that, because I started makthe performance. For example, my solo The Melon Project was built on the act of smashing a watermelon. Within that image are many different metaphors based on intense experiences of loneliness, death, and desire. The piece should have been ten minutes in duration, but I realized I could not get past that restriction, and so I am trying to become more versatile as a performer. Some people were offended by the piece; they felt tricked into an experience they did not expect, but that's how life works — it comes at you in unexpected ways. For me that is the same with performance: We have to design it with gentleness and care, but we can't just be nice all the time. We are responsible for giving the audience an experience. So, I started thinking more about the kinds of experience we present to the audiences, and in a piece like Booth Connection, I tried to give the audience in the booth an experience of the power of an act like embracing for five minutes. I realize that each project can have its own audience, and while our company name might sound very intense at first, a lot of that intensity is invested in its projects, or maybe our initial impulses are quite intense. A bigger question for Aryo and me is what our range in audiences is. We are asking ourselves: Who are we reaching for and how are we reaching them, and more specifically, we are looking at what age group and demographic we are looking for, and therefore who are we including and excluding. I am certain about the fact that we won't be following the habits of the audiences so each work might only resonate with certain groups of people and we will

6

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

continued on page 15


Fall Notes As we enter a new season here at The Dance Centre, I

Expanding our corporate support allows us to bring the joy of

cannot help but feel so proud of what we as a community

dance and the power of dance to immigrant youth as well as

on the West Coast are achieving. The season ahead re-

seniors, asserting over and over again how dance contributes to

flects the multi-talented and diverse community we inter-

the well-being of individuals and society.

act and engage with, and each of our members' inspiring work is woven into our exciting present and an even more

Our major event this season is our biennial Dance In Vancouver

exciting future and the potential it holds.

event, which brings dance professionals, supporters and audiences together into a common sphere of interest and dialogue.

BC dance and The Dance Centre have seen many chal-

This is the time that the Vancouver dance community welcomes

lenging times, and we have come out of these stronger.

the world. I anticipate that with the changes proposed by this

The sometimes precarious and often insufficient fund-

edition’s curator, New Zealander Adam Hayward, along with the

ing structures, along with the changing political climate

expanded partnerships and the many colleagues across Canada

is something we have almost gotten used to, and have

and beyond, that we await with eager anticipation, there will be

proven strong enough to weather, mostly through part-

much to talk about! A time to not only put our best foot forward,

nerships and cross-disciplinary collaborations.

but also an opportunity for self-reflection, making new friends, expanding borders of thinking and talking dance.

I am so proud of being a part of shaping the history of our dance here on the West Coast, and that through the

I would like to think that we are finding a balance between for-

developments of the past seasons and in moving forward,

ward thinking and provocative, inspirational and contemplative,

we have, together with support of our many individual

and between traditional and contemporary work. Support-

contributors, continued to advance and celebrate dance

ing and presenting provocative art really serves as a vehicle to

in its many and ever–evolving forms, along with new

connect people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, just

generations of dance makers.

as presenting more traditional works allows us to reflect on the historical path that we thread as individuals and communities,

The Dance Centre, dare I say, is a catalyst for the de-

and the encounters along the way.

velopment of the art form, of emerging and established artists, and of new audiences. As a leading dance orga-

In concluding, I look forward to seeing more of both famil-

nization here on the West Coast, presenting live dance

iar faces and new, attending the many interpolations that The

performances, our activity reflects the diverse cultural

Dance Centre offers for dialogue around dance, including per-

landscape of our province, as we aim to foster a healthy,

formances and open rehearsals among the many other oppor-

stimulating environment for community networking,

tunities to encounter dance here at Scotiabank Dance Centre.

artistic exchanges and audience engagement. Our goal

Of course, across Vancouver, year–round, the conversations,

is to support creativity amongst local dance artists, as

encounters continue – so there aren't many excuses for missing

we engage with international artists to ensure that local

out on dance today, or any other day of the year.

advancements in dance are being recognized within a broader context.

Mirna Zagar Executive Director

The 2017/18 season will continue to reflect our mission of innovation, equity and artistic growth through programs that continue to build bridges across communities.

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

7


Performing Space A conversation with Katie Lowen and Diego Romero

AK: The dimensions strongly inform the work that is created there, I imagine? KL: Two pieces that Justine A. Chambers curated for the New Works Dance Series were actually created for Boombox, and we are now transferring them to the stage, and it is very

AK: Given Vancouver's absurd real estate prices it isn't surprising that young artists are creating alternative spaces to work and perform, outside of the established institutional and civic structures, but it is unusual to do it in a semitrailer. How did you start Boombox? KL: For us it began with not being able to afford studio space. We stumbled on this space on craigslist, and when we looked at it we realized that it could double as a performance space. The reality is that it costs so much to put on a show that if you don't have grant money and the right people behind you there is no way to do it, so this was a place to start our practice, so we renovated and began to work in it. DR: Another part was that in the dance world creators and choreographers need to climb a hierarchy, where you have to impress certain people who give you a 'yes' and then other people give you a big 'yes', or a 'no', in which case you are screwed, but we wanted to focus on creation and performance and go back to the basics of what art making and dance practice is, instead of focusing on the trajectory or style of dance that is connected to climbing that ladder. We wanted to do things our own way, which takes a lot of effort and money, but this way we can do what we are interested in and we can offer opportunities to other people without climbing those hierarchies. KL: I also think that it is really important to have a space to try and to discover what kind of work I want to make. AK: Do you think of it primarily as a platform for yourselves or is it a space for the community? DR: At first, we thought it was going to be just a workspace for us as, but then we realized that having a semitrailer in a parking lot was a cool space, and so we got lights and sound and bleachers. Since then I have only created one work in there myself but I have produced five or six shows, artist's talks and parties, and there is more coming up, so it took the route of being a space open to our friends and other artists. It is 53 feet long and 8 feet wide, which edits out the people who would not be comfortable in it, and anyone who is in there is meant to be there; they fit and they feel okay. 8

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

interesting to see what happens when movement that belongs to a site-specific work goes on a larger stage. When we make work at Boombox, it is for that space and it is part of a culture created around it. For example, every seat is a centre seat and there is no rake, so the constraints built into the space are interesting. For me as a new person entering into the choreographic world it is nice to be given those constraints, and it is a practice of using what you have, which is a transferrable skill. AK: Ever since Dances for a Small Stage began, Vancouver has had a history of dance presented in small spaces, and a long list of alternative venues like 1067 or the Glass Slipper, but these were eventually shut down by the city, burned down by the developers' arsonists, or, like some artist-run centres, gentrified themselves. More mainstream institutions are already bursting at the seams, so where do artists go? DR: We're on wheels so we can move! We were originally at Marine Drive and we since moved closer to downtown. It costs money to move and to get permits, but we will be moving it more next year, and we can survive better than others, because we are a private event, with a guest list, we don’t sell booze, and we have had no interaction with the police. AK: Shipping containers are being used for art projects in many places, such as the Goethe Institute's FIT project by Dida Zende at the Finning Site in 2011, or the Dutch Satellite Group's BADGAST colony, or any number of 'refugee housing' schemes, but I think dancing in containers in Vancouver may be a new take. DR: We are also trying out having artists–in–residence. We don't want to act like a school or a venue, but we have the space and since there are only three of us we want to give the opportunity to others. The residencies are informal, we charge a low price and give artists a key for the whole week. They have 24 hour access, they can use lights and sound, and they can have showings. KL: One other thing that is important to our value system is that when we produce shows with other artists, none of us (except Diego when he does the tech) see the show until the


BOOMBOX Dance Central June/July/August 2017

9


"We wanted to do things

our own way, which takes

a lot of effort and money,

but this way we can do what

we are interested in and we

can offer opportunities to other people without climbing those hierarchies." 10

Dance Central June/July/August 2017


night before, so it is very much hands-off: You make what you want, then we get together practicing the tech, and then we talk about the work afterward. We don't 'curate' in the

Performing Space A conversation with Katie Lowen and Diego Romero

conventional sense. So far all the pieces have been different enough but they work together in a way that makes sense. space. Lexi Vajda, for example, did a solo piece about DR: Our 'non–curation–based' curation system seems to

trucking culture and trucks. I am also noticing a trend

work. Except for me; I am there for three and a half days

in dance: To pronounce what is 'choreography'. Dance

without leaving when it turns out that we have three chore-

is used as a root term, but choreographed sections

ographers who need six hours of tech each...

are singled out, and those are boundaries which aren't necessary for us, we don’t announce the difference,

AK: Ah, the well-established model of the artist's noble self-

so if there is no boundary in material that’s also where

exploitation?

performance art seems to sit.

DR: For the coming year we will try out a different format.

KL: And the space imposes such a sense of intimacy,

We will try one artist and give them access for three months

because it is small, and because it is on wheels the

to create work with different forms. That will help us pay the

audience feels like they're almost dancing with what-

rent every month, but without the restraints of having to do a

ever is happening. The theatre moves. And most of the

'show' of show, and the difference in the form of the space al-

artists seem to be actively questioning what is 'dance'...

lows us a change in the form of the presentation. DR: Or forgetting completely what it is... AK: Speaking of Boombox in terms of ethos and concept suggests that it is potentially mobile in more than one way. Is it a

KL: ...and because we don’t have to see the piece to

franchise? Boombox Calgary? Boombox Montreal?

'curate', we don't give weight to what they decide their creative form is going to be, and if 'performance art' is

DR: We have been thinking about taking it on the road, on a

closer to their intent, that is fine.

Canadian tour: Call a city, look for a parking lot, organize an audience. It just takes planning and organizing.

DR: The only moment you have to go back to thinking performance art/dance/theatre is when you go back to

AK: Arash Khakpour spoke of his work in Boombox in terms

the discursive roots of the conversation, but a lot of the

of dance, theatre and performance art, which is a word that

time that isn’t necessary. You could be talking about any

had disappeared for quite some time, except in a segment of

other element of the production or research. I am with

the visual-arts community that has huddled around the LIVE

Derrida and Foucault here: the roots of the disciplines

Biennale since most of its venues shut down or realigned with

are linguistic; other than that, most interpretations of

the goals of the 'cultural industry'. It is interesting to see the

each form are so different that only language defines it.

term reappear, especially as used by dance artists. KL: And being such a different space, Boombox helps KL: Especially with Boombox, there are some things that limit

redefine that.

what kind of 'dance' are possible; the walls have holes, the floor is not entirely even, which can limit the dance technical-

AK: Do the audiences reflect that 'non-disciplinary' at-

ly, and so some of the work has edged more toward perfor-

titude? Do they come back?

mance art, and that makes sense in that space. KL: A little bit of both, but we have had full houses for DR: A lot of artists I have seen work at Boombox get obsessed

every production.

with the space, and quite a few works are actually about the

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

11


Performing Space A conversation with Katie Lowen and Diego Romero

You don't get to pick your own mentorship. That's an intimidating way to start. Ours is another way: 'Hey, here is the key to the space, bring your own mentors if you want them, work five minutes or thirty-five minutes.' We have no time constraint and no supervision. There is always an element of curation because there will be work you like and work you don't, but we are going about it differently. AK: How long have you been running for now?

AK: What's a full house?

KL: A year. We started renovations last September. It took a long time and it was a lot of work. Now we need to find more money

KL: 35, 40 with the artists.

because we need better heating, a better sound system, and new lights would be great.

AK: Not bad, considering that a theatre company renting the Firehall can't prudently budget for ticket sales of more than

AK: Is it loud when it rains?

30 percent of house — which is 40 people. KL: Yes, but it's great. It's really beautiful, because the whole inteDR: We are also quite new, and I think people like showing

rior is wood and the sound really resonates, and the metal on the

up in a trailer park, with a generator running outside...

outside gives a really interesting presence.

KL: We have had incredible support from the community,

AK: You only communicate by Facebook page and social media?

which is insanely integral to us. KL: Yes, by 'unofficial' Facebook page, Instagram account and by DR: We would have turned it into a private workshop space

word of mouth. We use email reservations rather than online

otherwise.

sales, and we send out a standard information sheet with a map, info about the space, how you find it, and we let people know

KL: We have a lot of returning audiences, but we also bring

that there is no washroom. For our shows we have three benches

new artists in all the time, and we have had intergenerational

and two lines of yoga mats, and we bring blankets. People also

shows which means that we have had different parts of the

like standing. Our first show coincided with the first blizzard of

community showing up.

winter, but we had a curtain talk and we saw all the people we know and respect, all sitting on a bench huddled together sharing

AK: You haven’t been confined to one generation or cohort...

blankets.

KL: That's one of the things we have been trying to get rid of:

AK: What will happen in the second year?

The structure of an institution that shows work of 'emerging' artists alongside 'established' artists. The tiered system

KL: We will have a longer work; we have never had a long piece

creates a hierarchy that we want to disregard. Our thing is to

in there.

integrate artists and audiences and to have intergenerational showings without having to label them as such.

DR: We will be presenting a show during Dance In Vancouver.

DR: We have a lot of artists in mid-career, who like to make

AK: So you are not that far off the radar?

site-specific work, and who are interested in Boombox. They may not have an opportunity to present at Scotiabank Dance

DR: No. We are talking with Josh Martin for PuSh-Off, and Donna

Centre, or the Firehall. There are things like Twelve Minutes

Spencer about participating in Dancing on the Edge.

Max, but that comes with supervision; someone who will watch you and you have to take notes from these people.

KL: For Dance In Vancouver we were originally commissioned to take the Box to the library downtown, but then they decided

12

Dance Central June/July/August 2017


"The only moment you have to go back to thinking performance art/ dance/theatre is when you go back to the discursive roots of the conversation, but a lot of the time

that isn’t necessary. You could be talking about any other element of the production or research.

I am with Derrida and Foucault here: the roots of the

disciplines are linguistic; other than that, most interpretations of each form are so different that only language defines it."

to give the presenters a feeling for the real space and will take them there. This will be the first showing that is not initiated by us. One of your values is that when we are part of something else we are the curators, so they can have Boombox but we want to keep it within our own message. AK: Over the years, I have seen many artists create spaces for themsevles that eventually take on a life of their own and consuming the artist, or the spaces transform into a public venue. How do you stay connected to your own practice and not become a venue manager? DR: We are finishing up the summer residencies and now Katie and I are playing in the space. It had become a place that generated more work that fun, but it is back to being fun. KL: We don't set a standard of expectation that we have to say 'yes' if people ask to rent, but we may rent out a lot of hours as a workspace. It is too site-specific for general rentals, and so we said that come September we will use the space we want to for a couple of months the way we want to. DR: Rentals are also a lot of work; we have to show them the loops, the generator, the heating and we are actually losing money. We want to rent it out cheap, but if we have to be there it is difficult. Everybody knows it is here now, and if somebody comes and wants to work for three months that would be better than short rentals. We want people who come from an idea and are really interested in the space. KL: And because all three of us are emerging, we don't want to become bogged down in administrative work. We want to make our own work. AK: Do you work as a trio? KL: We haven’t made a joint work, but we work together in different capacitates as choreographer, dancer, producer, curator. DR: Never as a trio, but Ileanna and I worked together. Katie worked with me, and so on. The established 'dance system' right now is pretty impossible and doesn't look like a lot of fun. So we look at things that aren’t working on the national, international and local scale. We don’t want to be doing those things, and because we are paying for this out of our pockets, we can screw up. AK: Where did you begin to dance? DR: I went to ballet school for decades and then to Modus Operandi.

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

13


Performing Space A conversation with Katie Lowen and Diego Romero

KL: I grew up as a sports kid. I came to SFU on a basketball scholarship and found dance in my third year, graduated and did Modus for two years, where I met these guys. Ileanna was in my first year at Modus. She is from Edmonton and then went to the École de danse contemporaine in Montreal. AK: Modus really has become a hub of dance artists in Vancouver KL: It's a big community — DR: —and it's also an institution where we learned things we didn't like. It gives privilege, and as much as it creates opportunity and training, it also pushes you to be a 'dancer' rather than a choreographer. It is still based on a ballet aesthetic, there is still negativity toward the body, and that is something Boombox is a reaction to. KL: I would say that because most of the artists who are now integral to Boombox have come from the Modus Operandi program, and we have trained together in that space, we have similar experiences and similar feelings of what was lacking, so Boombox has fed into the places that aren't as successful. We find that it is a place of refuge.

"The absence of definition and the freedom a lot of artists feel in Boombox is that this is a physical space that doesn't force you to abide by one linguistic rule of practice." 14

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

DR: I want to go back to the question about dance and performance art. Modus Operandi linguistically pushes 'dance', so you have to make sure the thing you are doing is 'dance' but since that is a linguistic space, and there is no such thing, it's whatever the definitions of that hierarchy determine. The absence of definition and the freedom a lot of artists feel in Boombox is that this is a physical space that doesn't force you to abide by one linguistic rule of practice. KL: What is neat is that because all of us have a history in Modus Operandi and lots of our audience is the young generation of Modus, it is cool to have them coming to the space and support it and bring their talkback about M.O. into the space. I am really curious to see if that will shift the culture in M.O., because now there is a space for young artists to make work they want to and have it seen, which didn't exist before. That will make ripples. The biggest reason we keep it in our personal reach is that we don't want to bring in a bigger party because we want to remain young twenty–somethings showing that it is possible. When you are in school you are told you have to pay your dues and you are shown that you have to go through this part in order to be given opportunities. I don’t want to wait, I am impatient and I want to create opportunities, and not wait for someone else to be in charge of our destiny. DR: Offering a view to other young artists that you don’t have to say yes, yes, yes and by the time you get there you are paralyzed. Think of Julius Caesar who said a lot of no’s to get to where he got to. You see a bunch of things Caesar didn't do to get to where he wants to. You can say no, and there are alternate routes, with a little money, a little imagination and a community. AK: Thank you!


Emerging Bodies: A conversation with Arash Khakpour

younger that me and went to ballet school, so for him it is also a question of form; not of technique but of what he reads, in

continued from page 6

psychology and history. So, I asked if he wanted to do this as interviews and use a recorder, and we would make it available as podcasts. He agreed, and it is one of the best things I have done this past year, extremely satisfying. I realized there

always be questioning who each project is targeting.

would be all kinds of things I didn't know. Of course you can find some info online but that is just not the same as having it

DC: Apart from Hong Kong Exile, I can't think of many com-

come from the person, with all the beautiful stories and inspir-

panies that deliberately include so many disciplines and

ing connections. We began with Su-Feh because she is very

performance elements. Are there others who are like you?

generous and helped us get over our nervousness. We tried to come up with good questions in order to do justice to all their

AK: battery opera comes to mind, which Aryo has worked

stories. For now, we have about seven episodes up on iTunes

with a lot. What really moves me every time I see their work

and there is more coming with Perter Bingham, Davida Monk

is that David and Su-Feh, together and separately don't limit

from Calgary, and we will have Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara

themselves to a form, they work on a subject intensely, never

Bourget, then a long list of other people.

lose sight of it and that really pays off in working honestly on a project. I was very inspired by David, when Aryo and I

DC: Do you think any of these may also lead to a form of

worked on Terroir Tour, a performance based on thirtytwo

physical interaction?

stories from his new book based on this province. We went on a couple of road trips together for a week each, to look

AK: I haven't thought about it that much; I thought I would

at the potential sites for the piece, with Aryo and me as the

stay out of this one for now because I am overloading myself

'immigrants', David as the 'settler', together with Chris Bose as

with projects. I have thought about an installation, perhaps as

the ‘indigenous’ artist/poet/writer in Kamloops who was also

part of a festival, where we offer the recordings as podcasts,

part of the project. The question was 'How do we deal with

but it will be a while before we figure out how it works. We

this reality of colonization and violence in the history of BC?’,

will stretch the performance into something of an overnight

in a performance called the Sacrifice. What do I honestly

performance that allows people to watch performances, listen

want to work on? It is a good example of a company that fol-

to the podcasts, and have the space to rest in between.

lows through with their initial promise regardless of the final 'form'.

DC: You were saying that you were transplanted. What was your life in Tehran like and was there a sense of continuity with

DC: You also did a whole series of interviews with dancers,

your current life, or did you reinvent yourself?

including Su-Feh... AK: I reinvented myself, but I always had this fascination with AK: I wanted to talk about how disconnected I felt in Van-

dance, although I was only in sports: basketball and gymnas-

couver. I moved here in 2005, when I was fourteen, about

tics, seriously, and then soccer. I got seriously into basketball

twelve years ago, from Iran. I just landed and began to make

for eight years and kept playing in Vancouver. I wondered if I

projects but that doesn't mean I belong here. That question

should pursue college basketball, but while I was thinking of

remains and brings real tension, being in this land where I

becoming a professional athlete, I realized that this was not

was not invited. My dad just wanted to come here, but I real-

going to be a long–term career, and that's when the dance

ly need to know what happened to others before me, like Pe-

fascination came back. I had a fascination with ballroom

ter Bingham, Jennifer Mascall, Su-Feh and many many others.

dancing and the curiosity of how to make performances.

I owe them that and I need something that I can build on. I

Then a friend offered to teach me ballroom and be her dance

was speaking to my friend Diego, who is half El Salvadorian

partner for performances, so I thought 'This is the opportunity'.

and also always grappling with similar questions as me; he is

I did that in grade 11 and 12 and then I got into a dance course

Dance Central June/July/August 2017

15


t

Emerging Bodies: A conversation with Arash Khakpour

"We haven't created a 'brand'; we are still very much individuals, as are the pieces, but in the next year or two we have a lot of activities coming up and that's when we will have to grapple with what the structure is and how we define it, and what it is meant to do for the community and for Canada."

Dance Central September 2004

3


with Nicole Roberge; she taught drama, theatre and dance

AK: There is something silly in what Diego and I have been

and she really inspired me. She watched me as I was in

doing with the podcast, and the reality of joking about things

transition of letting the sport thing go, and find more dance

we might not do in public all the time. But I am glad that is

classes. The transition was psychological. I was looking for

part of it, where you hear two strange guys, and you may

something with more depth than being an athlete. I was

want to say 'Who are you?' but you think 'Look, we are all

also interested in getting into psychology and history, then

here now together. What do you see?' That could be the point

I wondered how they would connect, which is what dance

of the podcast itself, and it becomes a sonic performance.

and choreography offered. I took classes with Kokoro and went to Harbour Dance then got into Modus Operandi six

DC: Where would you place yourself? And you still haven't

months later. After three seasons of Modus Operandi train-

told me why the company is called 'The Biting School'?

ing, I worked with Henry Daniel and Kinesis Dance somatheatro. If I had stayed in Iran, I would probably have been

AK: It took us six months to find a name. At one point we

a basketball player. It would have made sense and I had

wanted to call it 'Buzz Cut', but we realized there is a festival

the right trajectory, place, and privilege. And in a way when

in Ireland by that name. 'The Biting School' came from starting

I say I don't belong here, the best way to connect and feel

to think of simpler words for what we were interested in. Oral

that this can really be a home, is to know what happened

names came up: mouth, tongue, teeth, gum and that led to

here and to understand what has happened. Who was here

biting. Then we thought about what we were doing and we

before me and why and how I fit into this. The podcast is

realized that we were creating a school for ourselves, and

part of this, going beyond just adding myself to the commu-

that's how we got to 'The Biting School'. Another inspiration

nity. I don't want to insert myself as an intruder, and I want

was Howard Barker’s 'Wrestling School', which Aryo and I are

to make sure my teachers and colleagues feel cared for, and

very interested in. Barker creates very challenging perfor-

that they can trust I understand what they went through.

mances, which both actors and audiences have to morally and intellectually wrestle with. Aryo had done one of Barker's

DC: It is unique as far as I know, to formalize this. As an

plays at SFU, where it feels like the whole world is coming

aside, you know that Deanna Peters has gotten dancers into

down on you because it is so difficult wrestling with so many

playing basketball?

problems. We realized we work on a similar trajectory so the name 'The Biting School' stuck, as a reference to that.

AK: Yes, I heard of it; I have never had a chance to see it, but it is a beautiful thing to frame basketball as dance, so that

DC: From your vantage point within The Biting School, has it

you see the movement differently. I have completely lost

found its shape, or is it still different with everything project,

touch with sports, but we are still athletes; every day we are

and how are you using this vehicle?

out of breath, and exhausted... AK: The wheels are coming together, or the cloud is finding a DC: Speaking of history, a lot of the theatre people came

shape, but we are still pulling it together. We haven't created

here as athletes. Norman Armour and Del Surjik came to

a brand; we are still very much individuals, as are the pieces,

Vancouver as 'ultimate' frisbee players...

but in the next year or two we have a lot of activities coming up and that's when we will have to grapple with what

AK: That kind of information is one of the reasons I want

the structure is and how we define it, and what it is meant to

to interview performers, and then producers, managers,

do for the community and for Canada. The most important

filmmakers and others. Wouldn't it be nice to know what

question is why it is here and how it is supposed to function

photographers Chris Randle and David Cooper did before

for the larger community. I think if those questions can be

we got to know them as a community?...

answered it will keep going and it will form itself.

DC: Institutions create history in Vancouver, but I think it is

DC: Thank you!

unique for individuals to do it from your vantage point Dance Central June/July/August 2017

17


Dance Central June/July/August 2017

Dance Central June / July / August 2017  
Dance Central June / July / August 2017  

The Dance Centre Bi-Monthly Publication for Members and the Dance Community

Advertisement