You will be able to tell how far along the 2018 Fluid Festival has gotten by the sound of the shows.
The acclaimed interdisciplinary dance festival is back, starting October 18, with a three week(end) long festival that blurs the boundaries of how dance is defined these days, explores identity, and along the way, breaks in Calgary’s newest arts hub — C Space — teaming up with Swallow-a-Bicycle to throw a curate-your-own-event art party for patrons.
“There’s no timecode — so where ever the piece takes us, that’s where it will go,” Hattori says, of his new piece Remembrance.
“Mine has a lot of silence (too),” Tzeng says, of That ch*nk in y/our armour, her new piece.
“OK. Week one is the silent week. And then we turn it up,” artistic produce Nicole Mion says, and to be fair, there are plenty of other Week #1 shows, created by people like Mark Ikeda, Justin Manyfingers and Sasha Ivonochko, that look as boisterous and bawdy, political and comedic as Tzeng’s and Hattori’s appear introspective and elegaic.
However, by the festival’s third week, the focus is firmly on music being re-interpreted through movement, most notably in the work of Lisbeth Gruwez, whose piece is scored to the songs of Bob Dylan.
Cultural combo platter
The Fluid Festival has always been a cultural combo platter, showcasing bold face international and national dance companies, combined with local and regional dancers and choreographers.
For 2018, Mion switched it up a bit, moving the big international act — British choreographer and dancer Akram Khan — up to mid-November, where he won’t be competing with a festival lineup for eyeballs, or monopolizing them for that matter.
Tzeng’s piece, That ch*nk in y/our armour, is a self-described provocative exploration of identity kicks off the festival Thursday, in a double bill with Ikeda’s Know the Rules, Win the Game, both of which premiered at the CanAsian Dance Festival in Toronto in late September.
Those two, together with Hattori and Wen Wei’s Dialogue, lend a distinctly pan-Asian vibe to Week #1, including Asian street food, artist talkbacks and a Butoh dance workshop by Denise Fujiwara, the artistic director of CanAsian Dance in Toronto.
(That ch**k in y/our armour by Pamela Tzeng)
“It’s important in a festival to make space for different kinds of voices,” Mion says. “every year, you ask that question again: what’s shifting in society and what are we making space for now?
“Part of that was done because Pam and Mark were selected to have works commissioned from CanAsian Dance, so it seemed only natural that we would want to have those works featured in Calgary and share the work here as well.”
Blurring dance boundaries
Yukichi Hattori, whose new piece Reverence, is part of a Friday night triple bill (with Vancouver’s Lesley Telford presenting My Tongue, Your Ear along with Dialogue from Wen Wei), is better known from his days at the Alberta Ballet, along with creating a unique choreographic style that straddles the boundaries between contemporary and classical — which is the connecting thread in Friday’s three pieces.
Inspired by the novel Forgiveness, by Mark Sakamoto, Reverence is more reflective, and meditative, and personal, than anything Hattori has ever choreographed before.
“This will require a lot of audience participation in that respect — you have to be actively participating,” he says. “You can’t sit back and let it come to you.”
It’s also the latest stop in a creative life that has produced a lot of dance thrills for Calgary audiences over the past decade, Mion says.
“In the ballet world, usually you are part of this big system,” Mion says, “and he’s (Hattori) been able to thrive within that, but then (his gift is to be able to) take all the best parts of that, and bring it to his own (creative) terms, which I think is just amazing.”
Reinventing definition of dance
What also gets blurred on Hattori’s bill are the formal lines that define dance today — which both the dancers and Mion think is the only way to keep dance vital.
“There’s some really great Canadian works in that way — Kidd Pivot, (the dance company of) Crystal Pite is a great example of someone who works in that way,” Mion says.
All three play with the tension between classical and contemporary.
(Another two to watch for in Week 1: High Trails, Justin Manyfingers’ new piece, and Modern Woman in Search of Soul from Sasha Ivonochko. “She’s a firm feminist in her approach to artmaking,” Mion says. “This piece has an online video feed component that’s super important to her — there’s this stupid thing (the Supreme Court appointment scenario) happening in the States today — (and articulating the) female voice on one’s own terms is super important right now.”)
In Week 2, the festival takes over C Space, where, working in conjunction with Swallow-a-Bicycle, it will transform the building, Mion says.
“Artists create art in different parts of the space and that the audience gets to create their own adventure – self-curate the path – and have a bit of a party too.”
“We’ll showcase some dance films from the western provinces, and there will be three great artists from Calgary who will all be showing dance film work.”
By the time the third week of the festival rolls around, the music will be turned way up — and some of it will be pretty familiar music, namely a piece from Holland’s Lisbeth Gruwez, who has created a piece performed to the songs of Bob Dylan.
That’s the perfect show to take someone who might not normally go see dance, Mion says.
“You might get anxious from the dance end, but it is within the context of Bob Dylan tunes — so you don’t need to be anxious,” she says.
And then, through the language of movement, Gruwez and her Voetvolk company do what all the best dance does: reinterprets something familiar in a way that seems new.
“What does that mean,” Mion says, “to have this very contemporary take on this classic folk experience?
“You’re going to experience it from a different perspective,” she said, “(and) you will discover an outstanding contemporary performer bringing it to life.”
(Lizbeth Gruwez dances Bob Dylan)
The Netflix thing
A lot of this sounds sort of interesting, but often, the choice to go or not go out these days, revolves around asking a single question: why turn off Netflix and go see anything?
Even for Mion, who has been a civic culture champion for decades now, it’s not an unreasonable question to ask — and she has an answer.
“Well, there’s an energy in the air (at a performance),” she says.
“I know that sounds kumbaya, but truly, there is. I love Netflix too, but when I think of those times when I’ve watched performance, when the electricity is in the air, that can’t be matched — it’s just like having a little heroin addiction.
“When it’s working, when it connects, it is like nothing else that is so exciting and so wonderful and feeds on multiple layers.”
You can almost feel the adrenalin level rising as she speaks.
“(A) festival? Yes! We’re going to have a festival and celebrate it: dance tends to be kind of the low guy on the arts totem pole.
“Some people are like, oh, I don’t know if I’m going to like dance, and we continue to present (dance) in a way that I hope is (intended to convey the message): you might like this.
“Give it a try.”