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May/June 2014

Dance Central A Dance Centre Publication

Content "I Love Dance Deeply but I also Hate It" A conversation with Lee Su-Feh Page 2

From the Executive Director by Mirna Zagar Page 6

Rethinking 12 Minutes Max a conversation with Claire French and Mirna Zagar Page 9

Thinking Bodies Karen Jamieson talks about her solo|soul Project Page 10

Welcome to the May/June 2014 issue of Dance Central.

Su-Feh Lee is a dancer, choreographer, dramaturge and teacher born and raised in Malaysia, where she trained and performed in theatre and dance. Since arriving in Vancouver in 1988, she has created a body of work that interrogates the contemporary body as a site of intersecting and displaced histories and habits. In April 2013, she received the Isadora Award from The Dance Centre for her contribution to the dance field as choreographer, performer, teacher, thinker, writer and speaker, and in March 2014 she received the second Lola Award. She is currently working on building a Dance Machine, with the help of dance artist Justine Chambers and architect Jesse Garlick; and is also participating in Migrant Bodies, a two-year international research project hosted by The Dance Centre and partner organizations in Montreal, France, Italy and Croatia. tour.

"I love dance but I also hate it." This issue features a conversation with Lee Su-Feh, the Artistic Director of battery opera and this year's recipient of the Lola Award, about her relationship to dance, to the tension between disciplines, to what we call history, and what we hope for as critical discourse. Mirna Zagar and Claire French offer some of the thinking behind the re-launch of 12 MINUTES MAX which begins with a studio showing this June, alongside the first call for works, that will be curated for a studio showing on June 5th of this year. The 'Thinking Bodies' series continues with a conversation with Karen Jamieson, whose two-year Solo|Soul project is about to be presented at Scotiabank Dance Centre this July. As always, we thank all the artists who have agreed to contribute and we welcome new writing and project ideas at any time, in order to continue to make Dance Central a more vital link to the community. Please send material by mail to or call us at 604.606.2264. We look forward to the conversation! Andreas Kahre, Editor

AK: Did the Lola Award come as a surprise to you? LSF: No. I got people to nominate me, shamelessly, because I thought I deserved it, and because of the timing of it in relation to things I am doing. AK: What do you make of the 'guided nomination' process? LSF: It's awkward; it feels like a passive-aggressive way of getting something. I should just be able to apply and speak about why I deserve it instead of getting someone else to say it. AK: Did you have a strong connection to Lola? LSF: Yes and no. Lola was a friend, but I had also been angry with her, in the way friends and colleagues get angry with one another over time. And when I heard she got sick, but was told that maybe she didn’t want people to know, it became hard to express my


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4

care or concern openly. Which, coupled with my anger, became a

deeply, A conversation with Lee Su-Feh

complicated set of emotions that didn’t get resolved before

during a critical juncture in their development, or, more like an

she died. So part of what is special about getting the award is

Isadora, perhaps, to recognize achievement. Where do you

that it is a way of continuing to have a relationship with Lola. It

think the Lola fits into Vancouver's 'dance award ecology'?

represents support from the community, but it also represents a connection with history, with someone who has left traces of

LSF: The Isadora, like the Alcan Award—tends to move around

what they are in you.

the community in a certain pattern: No one gets it twice, but eventually everyone gets it. I think the Lola is different, but I am

AK: Do you have of sense of how you might use it?

not sure which part of a career it should support. In any case, it would be cool if it was open to other disciplines.

LSF: I have a number of projects going on right now for which I have funding, but this allows me to take liberties—if an aspect

AK: It is; at least according to the original mandate which explic-

of a work needs more attention or resources I will be able to

itly includes artists from other disciplines, provided their work

meet that. It's nice that the award isn't project specific and that

embodies the ethos of the 'Gesamtkunstwerk' (the fully integrat-

it is designed to acknowledge the whole of a practice.

ed, or as it sometimes translated, the 'total' work of art, Ed.)

AK: Crystal Pite, the first Lola Award recipient, pointed out that

LSF: The cool thing about the 'Gesamtkunstwerk' is that it

it had been critical in allowing her to take time and consider

challenges dance artists to situate themselves among other

the next step in her practice. But there is still some confusion whether the award is intended to support a mid-career artist

continued on page 4 D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4


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 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. Editor Andreas Kahre Copy Editor Hilary Maxwell

disciplines, and it challenges other disciplines to take dance seriously, because this award comes from the dance world and we are confident enough to give it to someone who is not a dancer. Politically, that could be important, to help dance be taken seriously. AK: Do you find that there is a growing dialogue between

Contributors to this issue: Lee Su-Feh, Claire French, Mirna Zagar, Karen Jamieson,

dance and the larger artworld; that artists from other disci-

Dance Centre Board Members Chair Ingrid M. Tsui Vice Chair Gavin Ryan Secretary Simone Orlando Treasurer Roman Goldmann

LSF: No. I don't feel that people take dance seriously as a dis-

Directors Kate Bilson Barbara Bourget Matthew Breech Susan Elliott Margaret Grenier Beau Howes Anndraya T. Luui Josh Martin

plines are learning to look at dance differently?

cipline, or as a form that has teeth in influencing performance. AK: Visual art, through the apparatus of critical language, has long been in the role of the arbiter of what is deemed 'important' work. Perhaps that explains why the—often heard— observation­that other artists rarely take dance seriously seems directed, if obliquely, at visual artists, rather than say, musicians. Do you encounter visual artists who show an inter-

Dance Foundation Board Members Chair Michael Welters Secretary Anndraya T. Luui Treasurer Jennifer Chung Directors Santa Aloi, Linda Blankstein, Grant Strate Dance Centre Staff: Executive Director Mirna Zagar Programming Coordinator Raquel Alvaro Marketing Manager Heather Bray Services Administrator Anne Daroussin Development Director Sheri Urquhart Technical Directors Justin Aucoin and Mark Eugster Accountant Lil Forcade Member Services Coordinator Hilary Maxwell

est in dance or movement-based practice? LSF: I have not met visual artists who have shown an interest in dance in the way that I have an interest in visual art; certainly nothing like the situation in 1960s New York where visual artists like Richard Serra were influenced by the Judson Church Group, for example. But it goes both ways: Dance artists need to step outside the world of dance and consider other forms, and take them seriously, as more than decoration. I wonder if the Lola Award has the potential to create that space, and I am curious if the notion

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 by numerous 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 through the BC Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver through the Office of Cultural Affairs.

of the Gesamtkunstwerk will remain as central. There are only so many people who make that kind of work, possibly only as many as can pronounce the word! So there may be years when the Lola may not be awarded. AK: The notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk, at least as it was first envisioned, does not enjoy much currency among visual artists at the moment; between the whiff of antisemitism attached to Wagner, and the shift to newer 'integrated media',

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"I love dance deeply, but I also hate it." A conversation with Lee Su-Feh

performances like the Ring Cycle in Bayreuth have become museum pieces of their own glorious past—rarefied affairs that cost twenty million dollars to produce, and are populated by people who pay upwards of $5000 for a ticket. LSF: Nothing very 'Gesamt' about it.... AK: Considering that dance almost always appears in the context of other disciplines, it is interesting that it isn't more generally valorized as an 'integrated' artform. Can individual works still hold the frame of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or does it apply more to an artist's approach to their entire practice—as it did with Lola? LSF: More to the practice, I think—I can't think of a single work of Lola's that fully embodies the concept, but her entire oeuvre certainly shows evidence of it. AK: Does the idea of a 'total work of art' play a role in your thinking about your own work?

costume and environment: An environment that clothes both dancer and viewer, provoking and revealing the interconnectedness of our human bodies so that we may all dance together. The other project is a collaboration with visual artist Edward Poitras and performance artist Robin Poitras, where we are making a “Habitacle” - an as-yet-unknown thing where habitat, habits, clothing (habiller being the french word for to clothe) and spectacle meet. In these projects, I am concerned with the permeability of the body, of the relationship between body and place, body and objects. I want to reveal a body that is in constant negotiation, not just with other bodies, but also between the history it carries and the layers of history beneath its feet. Dance is how we make that negotiation. I am less interested at the moment in choreography as something that I invent on the dancer’s body but something that I do to or with the body of the audience, or to the relationship between artist and the audience. I feel that this is all Gesamtkunstwerk territory. AK: Where will your curiosity take you next?

"I want to reveal a body that is in constant negotiation, not just with other bodies, but also between the history it carries and the layers of history beneath its feet." LSF: I don't walk around with 'Gesamtkunstwerk' ringing in my head, but I live and work by certain principles, or hypotheses, that I play with and put out, and in that sense I don't experience a separation between what I am trying to achieve in art and in my own life. Currently, I am working on two projects, which are trying to arrive at the dancing body through scenography and costume rather than by making steps. My first collaboration is with architect Jesse Garlick and dance artist Justine Chambers, constructing a 'Dance Machine', striving for a performance that is both

LSF: I am not sure; one's relationship with dance is always fraught with disappointment. I love dance deeply, but I also hate it. I am not sure how I am going to come out of this process, which will take two or three years. AK: What is the source of the disappointment? LSF: That dance is ineffectual, that it is concerned only with being beautiful, pretty, or pleasing. That it speaks from a place of entitlement and privilege, without being actually conscious. continued on page 16

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From the Executive Director

AK: What happened? What is going to happen? MZ: We wanted to go back to the core mission: 12 Minutes Max is about dialogue and discourse around the practice of movement–based work. It is not a showcase for completed

On a rainy Spring day in Vancouver, funneled by a desire for the sun to break through, I reflected on how our season comes to a close, and on future moves and opportunities. Over the past two years, I have been involved in several EU projects which provide support to the development of a new generation of dance makers, and new opportunities for collaboration. Through all these encounters and travels I realize how much Vancouver has evolved since I first came here, and that while austerity measures continue, it is also worth noting that investments into the art continue, albeit differently— channeled towards audience development, collaboration across disciplines and across national borders. Each trip brings more clarity on how The Dance Centre fits into a global context and how we can connect to the world, with projects such as Migrant Bodies, which now makes its way to Italy (May) and to Croatia (June), and will provide Vancouver dance, media and literary artists with an international context to work in, and enable staff to explore different ways of international collaborations.

work, but an opportunity to open the doors to new ideas. There are several different platforms related to presenting short work, and we have dialogue about open rehearsals and processes, but we don't have focused dialogue around diverse practices in space, and we don't have a critical framework for new ideas to be presented in development. We feel that there could be an opportunity to share ideas and to have fun, to be informative about the artist's process of embodying ideas. We also want to create an opportunity to encourage dialogue between audiences, both from within and outside the dance community and to encourage them to respond to developing work. We want to create a 'tasting and testing' ground, a springboard that can lead to new works and new collaborations. That was the source of 12 Minutes Max, and that's what we want to get back to. AK: Early on, the series was focused on creating opportuni-

I was pleased to attend Judith Marcuse’s launch of her new project in arts for social change (The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) provided a $2.5 million grant to support the ASC! Project, a five-year, national research initiative on art for social change, the first study of its kind in Canada!). It also reminded me how much effort and time it took her to get to this point. Yet she persisted and kudos are in place and to all who recognize the power of the arts for a healthier community. I look at what we here at The Dance Centre have accomplished: from a small organization in a side street of Vancouver to a world-renowned centre for dance on one of the busiest intersections in town. How what we managed to accomplish together with the many who joined and supported us, we set a standard and put into motion events that just keep on transforming our community. I look at the many partnerships we continue to expand, the numbers of artists whose works we have supported and continue to support. The world reaching out to us, as much as we to them. And, as I look over that list of events past and present, I start looking with more optimism into the future! I am reminded that much of this destiny is in our hands. Hence, as we approach next year’s elections we have to think now what we expect of our governments of tomorrow not only as citizens, but as artists whose role is to contribute to the shaping of the world. Our world. And, this is where the sun comes out. Looking forward to the Summer.

ties for emerging choreographers to share work in progress with an audience, in a frame that provided basic production values and encouraged informal feedback, but over the years it became much more presentational. Why did it change? CF: I co-curated the series with Daelik toward the end, and we became aware that we were losing the focus on work in development and dialogue. One reason for this development was that the selection had to be based on who auditioned, rather than an independent curatorial process. The diversity that resulted became part of the series' draw, but it also created a challenge, because established dance groups were using it as a way to enhance the profile of finished work. Over time, it became more and more of a showcase. That hadn't been our intention, and that is one reason why we wanted to re-imagine it. Another was that there had developed a blur between series such as Dances for a Small Stage, Brief Encounters, programming at The Dance Centre and events like Dancing on the Edge. The community shifted in how it used these opportunities, and when we put 12 Minutes Max to rest, we realized that nothing existed which addressed its original mandate: A framework for critical reflection on developing ideas in movement-based practice. That's why we have been going back to the roots, and why we want to reach a whole generation of dance artists who aren't aware of what it can Dance Central September 2004

Mirna Zagar, Executive Director


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4

offer and how it could work.


The Final 12 Minutes Max Poster, ca. 2009

Re-thinking 12 Minutes Max A conversation with Mirna Zagar and Claire French

The Fine Print:

12 Minutes Max is Back! We are thrilled to announce the re-launch of the community favourite 12 Minutes Max. Following extensive community consultations held in conjunction with our longstanding partners at the Firehall Arts Centre, we have revised and updated the concept to better meet the needs of dance artists today, with a strong focus on studio showings, choreographic development, feedback and discussion. There will be three opportunities per season (fall, winter, spring: submission deadlines tba) for artists to submit dance and movement-based works in development running between 7 and 12 minutes. • A rotating panel of guest curators will select up to four artists per module. • Selected artists will receive up to 16 hours of fully subsidized studio space at Scotiabank Dance Centre to develop their works, with input from the guest curators. Additional hours may be available at a special discount, if required (subject to availability). • At the end of each research and development module all four artists will share their work in an informal studio showing open to the public. • At the end of the season, the guest curators will select a number of works for presentation in two ticketed performances at Scotiabank Dance Centre. (The first year only will have four modules, with the performances in June 2015.) The new 12MM format seeks to foster experimentation and the development of new work, along with critical feedback and community dialogue. Module #1 Summer 2014 Application deadline: April 7, 2014 Studio showing date: June 5, 2014 Eligibility: • Applicants must be Full Artist or Company members of The Dance Centre. • The applicant must be the author and primary creator of the work. • Proposed works must be in the early stages of development: finished works are not eligible. • Proposed works must run between 7 and 12 minutes when completed. • Artists at all levels of their career – emerging, mid-career and established - are eligible to apply, however mid-career/established artists must demonstrate that they are experimenting with new directions, ideas or collaborations. • Emerging artists must have completed a recognized professional dance training program, or the equivalent. If you have questions please contact the Programming Coordinator at The Dance Centre: T: 604 606 6405 E: Dance Central September 2004


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Re-thinking 12 Minutes Max

A conversation with Mirna Zagar and Claire French

AK: What inspired the original 12 Minutes Max? MZ: It was named after a very successful series that is still running in Seattle's On the Boards. We have seen increasing investment in dance, and we have seen it blossom in the community, but we haven't had the opportunity to

MZ: 12 Minutes Max was modelled after a very successful

develop work outside of the confines of a project grant, and

series run by On the Boards in Seattle, which still exists and

here we have an opportunity to support development for a

continues to be vibrant, because it was well maintained as a

year, in order to allow artists to get feedback while they are

place for dialogue, for dialogue, for understanding and setting

developing an idea into a larger work.

trends, and for seeing who is doing what. We are looking at how we can facilitate the dialogue that begins in the studio

AK: Artists have been wandering back and forth between

and how to engage and invite all generations of choreog-

the different series—especially Dances for a Small Stage,

raphers to test an idea, to give and receive feedback, and

Brief Encounters and 12 Minutes Max. Do you expect that to

to explore new ways of how we see dance now and in the


future. CF: Yes, and it's great that there is a whole network, to have AK: How will the new format support this idea?

consistency, and to make artists understand why they are chosen in a transparent and supportive relationship.

CF: As I understand it, there will be studio showings, three times per season. From among those, the curators will select

AK: Will the same curators select all three shows as well as

what represents that year's interesting developing work for a

the final showcase?

more developed presentation for a more formal setting like the Faris Family Studio, and that will come from investment

CF: That will probably be too much of a commitment,

in an idea or an artist. There will be three annual opportuni-

which is why we will be working with groups of three out of

ties for dance artists to submit applications, from which the

a total pool of eight.

curators will select those who will participate in one of three hosted studio showings, with dailogue sessions to provide

AK: How will the dialogue and relationships that develop

feedback that artists can consider as they refine and focus

out of the series relate to existing Dance Centre programs.

their work. The second 'module' will present a curated selection from the studio showings in a performance at Scotia-

MZ: We facilitate and produce a lot of content, but we

bank Dance Centre. Those works—depending how far they

don't have a dedicated space within our programming and

have developed—may then receive ongoing Dance Centre

operations to critically assess that content. That is why I

support for further development.

believe we saw a very positive response that confirmed a sense of great value around the dance publications like the

AK: In what way?

series we produced in the past year. I think that looking at how we discuss dance, how we listen to others, and make

MZ: We are going to use the showing as a potential entry

the transposition into the spatial complex and then back

point for residencies with more resources, and where we

into the oral and written form is really important. For dance

may not have the means to develop the full potential of an

to continue to be vibrant we need to bring more and varied

idea, this process will provide opportunity to source partner-

expertise into contact with the form. This is our contribu-

ships for their future development. In previous versions of 12

tion to the space for exchange of ideas, and experience,

Minutes Max there was an expectation that other present-

and our chance to encourage interest and desire in cross-

ers might see the work and pick it up for presentation, but

disciplinary collaboration. That is why the feedback ses-

that didn't happen because the work was already seen as

sions for the studio showing are especially important. We


need to hear the voice of both the public and the profesional audience. The series will encourage focused dialogue


D a n3c e D Caennct e r aC l e Mna tyr/a J ul nSee2p0t1e4m b e r 2 0 0 4

about embodied pactice.

AK: Will the curators play a part in the dialogue following the

a bigger need, we will have to find a way to negotiate that with


the focus of the series, but that is a factor we will have to meet in the selection process.

CF: That is definitely a part of the plan. We have chosen curators who are informed, and have a broad range of practice, and

AK: Will there be an audience base for a long-term commit-

we want to encourage artists from the visual art world to take


part in the discussions. We want to develop a lineage and a perspective on dialogue and feedback.

MZ: We could have kept going with the old version, which had an audience although many felt that the original excitement had

AK: There was a time when 12 Minutes Max was one of the few

given way to a predictable pattern. We really want to focus on

dedicated 'interdisciplinary' performance opportunities. Will

dialogue and development, and we will have a good indication

that be an important aspect of the new series?

of interest after a year. As with everything we do, evaluation will be an important part of shaping the new 12 Minutes Max.

MZ: Yes, although the focus did shift over time. In the beginning, Mark Lavelle, who had a strong connection to young theatre

AK: Thank you!

makers was interested in an interdisciplinary approach, but after he left and it the series was run jointly by the Firehall and The Dance Centre, it shifted toward a dance-centered perspective. The new 12 Minutes Max series will continue to encourage interdiscplinary work and dialogue as part of the process, and we will bring in curators from other disciplines. CF: For the new series, we refer to 'dance and movementbased research and practice'. There are of course many interdisciplinary collaborations going on in the city and presentation venues that didn't exist back then, like Theatre under the Gun, and HIVE, but our agenda is different. The series will encourage interdisciplinary work but from artists with a movement-based practice. AK: Will the Firehall Arts Centre be involved at all? MZ: Not for the time being. We approached them, of course, and they were very much part of the process of re-thinking the event, and they have been an important partner and generous supporter. However, they have developed other programs and while the door for future collaboration remains open, for the time being they are focusing on their own developments. AK: Do you see any risk? CF: There is a risk in bringing something back, or having it perceived that way, even though it is new. We thought long and hard about the title, for example, because the perception needs to shift. The other question is whether we will still be meeting the demand of the community by focusing on studio showings with minimal production values. If presentation turns out to be

Dance Central September 2004


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4


Dancing Through Doorways

AK: You are in the middle of building the solo|soul performance How are you finding the process? KJ: It's good, and I'm terrified at the idea that I am going to move around on stage for forty minutes, now that I don't have all my partners. But I am enjoying building a structure that helps me makes sense of all these people and ideas... AK: This will be the third year of the project. When does it go up? KJ: July 10th. AK: What have you discovered? KJ: I am still in the process of discovery. Driving the whole project is necessity and curiosity. To continue to dance at my age, I feel the necessity to cross over the bridge from one body to another — from the muscular body to what I am calling the energy body. At the same time, I am very curious to discover if the inward, meditative practice of the energy body can be connected to the outwardly focused, visible practice of performance. These are the questions I started with—that tumbled me into this amazing journey of discovery. I have found it very exciting to bring other people into the process, to see how they bent and shifted and reconfigured the outcome. I could observe my process moving along a path and then, as another person's perspective came in, the bending and shifting change that takes place. Now I am now trying to make a coherent choreographic whole of it all. AK: Who came to work with you? KJ: In no particular order, Serge Bennathan, Meredith Kalaman, Darcy McMurray, Josh Martin, Jennifer Mascall, Peter Bingham, Margaret Grenier, and Lee Su-Feh. AK: Are you finding that you are now experiencing a form of multiple personality disorder? KJ: It has been insane at times, but at this point, I may just be working with one idea that each person brought in, one place where the bending of the trajectory took place. AK: Do their voices play nicely with each other in your mind? KJ: Yes, although there are times when two people are bringing up radically different ideas on a subject at once, and sometimes I Dance Central September 2004

have had to let them accumulate and overlap. 10

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Thinking Bodies: A conversation with Karen Jamieson

Dance Central September 2004


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4

Karen Jamieson at work. Photo: Chris Randle


Thinking Bodies: A conversation with Karen Jamieson AK: You had a specific set of inquiries in place at the beginning. Did your collaborators have to learn them before they came into the process? KJ: Some did and some didn't. Some where interested and willing to go into the energy body practice, some had no interest, and some a little—It was the complete spectrum, but it didn't really matter because I was still working on the premise that I take and work with whatever perspective they brought. AK: There were several systems at work, which you explained before each showings. Could you give an encapsulated form of the different systems, keeping in mind that this is a radio play... KJ: The core of the investigation is the energy body practice, a meditative practice coming out of yoga, specifically the research of two teachers I have been studying with for almost 20 years. From Orit Sen Gupta, the vayu doorways- connective tissue doorways, opened through attention to breath focused on specific locations on the vertical axis of the torso. From Gioia Irwin, the bandha system, harnessing at specific locations the weight of your body as it bounces back as energy, tracking it with attention... I am finding this harder to explain while sitting. AK: I have seen you explain it on your feet, and that seemed much more natural... KJ: I am overlaying more systems which are based on the connective tissue body. There is communication all along the connective tissue body. It’s all push-pull of gravity and levity. Another system I am investigating is based on the principles of tensegrity, which comes from architecture. Buckminster Fuller joined the terms tension and integrity to describe geometric structures that consist of floating compression elements stabilized in a web of tension elements. The web is the connective tissue body. This is a new paradigm in anatomy, and tensegrity anatomy is now


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4

AK: How do you generate 'performance movement' quite widely practised among healers and some danc-

in the context of this process of self-observation and

ers. All this overlays on Tai Chi and Chinese martial

analysis. How do the impulses find their way through

arts, which also has a lot of connections to tensegrity,

the analysis?

and the meridians seem related to the tensgrity lines of connection.

KJ: It's not constant analysis any more, because now I am building and creating a structure, so now I am

AK: Will any of this be explained to the audience?

wrestling with questions like "In moving from this to that, does Darcy come in first, or Jennifer? And I am

KJ: I would like to. I am looking for the words... I want

asking 'does it work?�, in terms of some intuitive cen-

to have some spoken word in the piece, and some of

tre of decision making.

the people who were partners will also appear speaking on video to help make it clear...

AK: After three years of this process, do you find that you have a different body?

AK: Three years ago you explained your starting point, and at the time it seemed to be pure exploration to

KJ: Well, our bodies are changing all the time, but

see how the body would behave when paid attention

I think it's a different kind of attention. That's the

to in a certain way. Where has it taken you?

mystery, and finding a way to access a body that is always there, while constantly changing.

KJ: On a very non-linear journey, because each person would take me somewhere new, and different from

AK: What I meant is that if you commit to sound

where I was. Some would question certain aspects of

walks, or drumming for a year, you come away with a

the systems, and there have been shifts and changes

body that has different relationship to the world.

in the driving idea... KJ: In that sense, yes, I am differently aware, of many AK: Such as?

more things than I was before I started. It is exciting and odd, because it isn't a new me: It's a new and dif-

KJ: A lot of information emerged about what I call the

ferent language.

'rooms' of the vayu's. You asked me last November after watching the work in progress why I never left

AK: Speaking of language, what language did your

the ground as I had in earlier stages of the research.

partners use?

The reason was I had shifted my focus more onto gravity, because I felt that my training and sense of ap-

KJ: Very different languages. Take Margaret Grenier

propriateness kept me emphasizing the 'up'. That was

who comes from a ten thousand years old Gitxsan

where I was in the process by then. At that time, I was

traditional form as an example. With each person, I

completely at the mercy of gravity, perhaps because

was interested in some aspect of their practice.

that was where I felt I hadn't gone, and I had to really experience the power of gravity. It became almost

AK: Did you dance with them?

the centre of the whole project—that huge downward force, and how we live with it. Now the question is

KJ: Yes, but each had a different role. You saw the

how to get off the ground and live in relation to this

work with Serge, who didn't want anything to do with

hugely powerful downward pull.

the system. He wanted the role of choreographer, because that is his practice, and that was challenging,

D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4


Dancing Through Doorways Thinking Bodies: A conversation with Karen Jamieson

a case of me trying to maintain the practice while meeting the demands of the choreographic process. With Meredith it was more a matter of call and response, as it was with Darcy. Then I started dancing with people, and that was quite different and interesting. Some brought a distinctly internal body focus, like Jennifer Mascall. She wanted to know if her mind-body practice could dialogue with the energy body practice. Margaret brought the Gitxsan energy spirit call the Nox Nox into a dialogue with that practice, which was difficult but really interesting. We will probably make that into a duet down the road. With Josh Martin I was interested in how much he worked with the weight of the body. He brought into focus the bounce of the rebound energy that opened up new understanding for me. I learned a lot about where people work from. Peter Bingham, for example, flows constantly and senses his way through space. With Peter it was more a dialogue between artists. Su-Feh came in with a very specific proposition, and we decided that in the showing I would talk about her practice and she talked about mine. Su-Feh comes out of Chinese martial arts, which has a connection to this work, and she wanted to learn the practice, so it was a dialogue between practices. Darcy brought more of her anatomy knowledge to the work of 'populating' the vayu 'rooms'. There has been an awful lot of information to distill and focus. What I am looking for now is to just let the piece emerge and let a lot of this stuff fall away. AK: You were working on other things doing that time? KJ: Oh yes, especially the community-engaged work at the Carnegie Centre, which culminated in a large piece called CONNECT last November and took a lot of time AK: What was it like to go back and forth between the outside world and the vayu 'rooms' within? KJ: I did introduce the energy body practice into the work with the Carnegie dance group, and it became a form of laboratory. I have been amazed at how receptive they have been, and it really makes me think that to work with nonprofessional dancers it makes much more sense to go from an internal sense of entry rather than from how it looks. The work has transformed them, I think. I also did a commission for Edmond Kilpatrick, a former Ballet BC dancer. It was really interesting; we focused on the practice, because he was interested, it being so different from ballet's focus on form. It was both challenging and exciting for us. I also did a 'Brief Encounter' and was paired with Nathaniel Justiniano, a


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4

San Francisco-based Bouffon clown, who, for the entire piece, mocked me as I went through my energy body practice. He was very funny, and I got to see the absurd side of this thing—and at the same time feel very strong with in it,.

middle of constructing a piece?

ers and fountains of wisdom. AK: Will they see it before it gets shown? Will they be part of the creation except in what they left behind? KJ: They will be brought in for video and so on, but I am not interested in verbal dialogue about the choices I am making now at this stage. Now it is about: It goes here and goes there, does that and that. That part of the process of creation is quite blind, because there is so much material. I actually have created a grid that I am using, and a whole notebook full of diagrams. This is just part of the process of trying to create structure. It moves along a timeline and includes video, spoken word, and music. John Korsrud has been locating sounds of wind and sounds from the inside of the body, and since vayu

AK: How does this work relate to what you have done in the past? KJ: I have made very few solos,

duet on themes of colonialism called Broken, with Margaret Grenier. I am also mentoring quite a few people, including a project with elders that has been brought to us in partnerVancouver Foundation, which they want to happen at Carnegie. Underneath much of this work is question of the aging body. At some point, you can't dance just with the muscular

KJ: Yes, and I am carrying all the incubi with me, torment-

the breath, and the trumpet.

Dance Festival in an extended version. The other project is a

ship with Coastal Health, the Vancouver Parks Board and the

AK: Systems are jealous mistresses... Now you are in the

means wind, he is working with

with Nathaniel Justiniano for the Vancouver International

body, which is one reason for all this research. There is a change in how impulse and focus function. AK: Are you aware of anyone else who is working with this set of systems in dance? KJ: No, perhaps because a lot of the people I have been working with are not dancers; they are completely in the world of yoga, whereas I have been straddling different worlds. There is a lot of interest in so-called somatic practices now in dance, but I am not aware of anyone who has worked in this way AK: If a young dancer would come to you and say: I am interested in learning this, would you teach it? KJ: Oh, yes. I have been teaching this work to the dance art-

You never leave anything behind: it transforms and changes, but you never break from it.

perhaps only four or five in my eighty–something works, and that seemed like a natural next step. Things keep coming back, like the vertical axis. I think it is a different kind of process. It is a new adventure. I have never included others in the research process in the way I have in this work. And I haven't used words; usually I don't like using words, but I would like to let people know what is being worked on, on as many levels as possible. AK: What will you do after that and how does it relate to this process? KJ: The process has actually seeped into everything I do.

ists who are studying with me in a mentorship relationship. And I have been teaching it in the community engaged context. At the same time, it is challenging when you go back to established dance forms. You never leave anything behind: it transforms and changes, but you never break from it. It is interesting for me to see how often I fall into a form, or a way of moving that I spent so many years in. Still, the process has become so central that I would end up there in any context. It extends range. Every dancer has a favorite way of moving and doing things, and this is a way to expand dance practice. AK: Many thanks!

After this performance, I am planning to develop the duet D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4


"I love dance deeply, but I also hate it." A conversation with Lee Su-Feh

continued from page 5

AK: Is there such a thing as a body that is not a slave—is there a free body in dance?

AK: Is it possible, given that we live in a global corporate 'culture',

LSF: I think freedom is something you get an inkling of when

to create work that isn't contaminated in some way? Can we make

you are in dialogue with your chains; if I meet someone who

work that actually operates outside of imperialist conditions, in a

says "I'm completely free" the question is...

kind of utopia? AK: whose expense? LSF: No, utopia is bound to fail. It means “no place” after all. And I think you have to engage with the global corporate culture, be-

LSF: Yes! I feel that one of the major narratives in the world

cause that is the paradigm we live in, because that is how we have

today is the narrative of the victim. You are enslaved and you

been socialized to understand our relationship with each other.

are looking for freedom. We talk about our lack: If only I had

The question is: How do you subvert the structure?

this or that, I'll be free. And in dance, being a poorer discipline, we get entrenched in this poverty narrative. I don't find this

"That's the choreography: The self and grou For me, choreography is government. Or a p government. Either you propose a gove

exactly the same as what we have, o something different." AK: At the 'professional' level, the material conditions of dance are

narrative useful. I think it is more useful to talk about what our

themselves corporate, from organizational models and funding

privileges are and what we are going to do about it, or with it.

structures, to how it is branded and marketed. Do you think that

Because even if we are at the fringe, these positions carry their

there is a kind of work that can subvert these conditions, or make

own privilege and can offer a point of view or a set of abilities

the conflict more apparent?

that the centre cannot know. I like the question 'What is my privilege and what could I do with it?’ Someone told me that

LSF: I think that we need to make the conflict apparent, but we

that's very Christian. Maybe that's 'charity’.

haven't developed enough tools to hold that conflictual place. AK: Dance may be a poor discipline, but is presented in a AK: The paradox is especially striking in the visual art world, which

visual and physical frame that lifts it out of its actual material

valorizes critical theory while the conditions of the international

circumstances. There is so much control over how the body

art market follow a monetarist model.

appears through the machinery of lighting, sound, media, that no matter what the intent might be, the body enshrouded in all

LSF: They are object-based. In that sense, I think the practice

this has a privileged aura. In what we think of as the 'profes-

of the body can serve as a counterpoint to the obsession with

sional dance milieu' it costs a quarter million dollars to put a

objects. Dance - especially somatic practices - can insist on the

dancer on a bare stage. In that sense, it isn't exactly a poor art,

importance of the living, breathing, sensing and ultimately, dy-

and it certainly rewards those who make clever use of all that

ing body. It is perishable and there is power to be found in that


perishability. The power of the dancing body is something deeper and older than this monetary system. Dance can offer a dialogue

LSF: ...and yet the thing that moves us is chaos, and no matter

between that older, ancient body with newer man-made power

how much money you have and how much control you have,


when dancers go on stage, whether they Dance C e n t r a l they S e p t eadmit m b e r 2it0 0or 4 not, 3


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4

are looking for a moment of chaos, and so is the audience. So the question becomes: How do we stay in touch with chaos? AK: It's been a while since I have heard of anyone talk of dance AK: When you say chaos, do you mean a moment where recon-

as charming. Are those judgements that come back from the

figuration is possible?

dance community? Who says that?

LSF: Perhaps. A moment when you don't know what's going to

LSF: I do. I see things and want to say: That's just charming! My

happen. And that not knowing has to happen for both the artist

therapist said charm is C+ harm. I don’t want to see charming

and the audience. I think that often the artist knows exactly what

work and I don’t want to make charming work.

is gong to happen and tries to fool the audience into thinking they don't know. That’s representational chaos. To have real exchange

AK: Do you find opportunites for dialogue?

and a real opening for communication with the audience, the artists have to get themselves into a place where they don't know

LSF: You can't just go up to the audience and demand dialogue,

what will happen; then we can all be vulnerable together.

but I know that in the Talking Thinking Dancing Body there is a space where we can talk about the viewer's relationship with the

AK: Do you like working in the formal frame of the black box?

up. It's politics. proposition for

vernment that is or you propose

work that is rich. AK: Two years into the project, is a new language developing? LSF: I wouldn't say that a language is taking shape, but we have developed certain protocols for the discussion, which are about the viewer's relationship with the work rather than the artist, and that is interesting. We don't concern ourselves with the artist’s intention at all. We try and talk about our physical as well as intellectual response to a work. It is about getting in touch with your capacity for pleasure. To get a sense of what is pleasurable and your capacity for recognizing what is not pleasurable and meeting that instead of submitting to someone else's notions. I

LSF: I hate that I do. I hate that space, and I hate watching stuff

think of pleasure as an antidote to imperialist structures.

in that place, but I recognize as an artist that I own it. I know that space so well; it's my material. I long to be an artist that works

AK: Does the love/hate relationship enter into your teaching

outside of that framework, and I have and I will, but I think despite


those longings, my instinct is to work in the black box; and I am interested, when I am there, to see how I can pull it apart and loosen

LSF: No, I love teaching. And in teaching, my love for dance is

the screws...

rarely threatened. When I teach I feel like I am a lover charged with bringing pleasure and bliss to the dancer. I teach or share

AK: Interesting—you use ritual in your work, which if anything,

tools and strategies for getting to the pleasure of moving. It's

seems to contain the chaos and double the frame of containment

about how to be an autonomous human being, how to be re-

and control.

sponsible for yourself and the negotiation of the self in relation to the world: That's the choreography: The self and group. It's

LSF: I suppose ritual IS a controlled negotiation with chaos. But for

politics. For me, choreography is government. Or a proposition

it to be real ritual, there has to be real chaos. Otherwise, it’s just a

for government. Either you propose a government that is exactly

representation of ritual. I hate representation, and yet I recognize

the same as what we have or you propose something different.

that there is a power in it—the paradigm of corporate imperialism trains us to buy the representation. How do you, as an artist, make

AK: Thank you!

that representation flicker with the real? I long to make work that is more than pretty; that's the love-hate thing with dance. I hate it when it's just charming. Dance Central September 2004


D a n c e C e n t ra l M ay / Ju n e 2 0 1 4


May/June 2014

Dance Central Dance Central September 2004


Profile for The Dance Centre

Dance Central May June 2014  

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

Dance Central May June 2014  

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