Tara Bradbury
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Festival of New Dance opens Oct. 8 with packed program

Life stages, memories, family, dogs, and a pair of cow slippers — artist Catherine Wright manages to intertwine them all into a performance piece that’s both emotional, thought-provoking and light-hearted.

“Hero & Heroine,” by Amber Funk Barton.

Her autobiographical piece “Cow One, Cow Two” will be shown as part of this year’s Festival of New Dance, taking place in St. John’s Oct. 8-13.

Wright has a background in both visual art and dance, and her pieces often include elements of text and song. “Cow One, Cow Two” is based on the lives of three of her dogs — Sophie (now deceased), Oscar and Rufus — and a pair of cow slippers that were a favourite of all three.

“The slippers I no longer have, but they span the period of time that I had all three dogs,” Wright explained. “They become the link to memories.”

A tribute to the dogs, “Cow One, Cow Two” is a storytelling piece in which Wright speaks throughout. Sometimes she performs as herself, and other times as the dogs, finding different ways to embody their different characteristics. It was fun but sometimes challenging to create the piece, she said, since she had to find a way to make clear which dog was which, without having to constantly crawl on the floor.

While some performing artists might find autobiographical pieces intimidating, Wright, who has previously explored personal topics on stage, like the birth of her first son and her relationship with her mother, said she has always felt compelled to explore who she is in the context of her environment.

“There’s just something there. I always feel like we exist on different planes as individuals,” she said. “There’s what we show to other people and there’s what we feel inside, and those don’t always match up. We’re always growing and learning new things, especially in our different roles as we go through life.

“I think I’m kind of at a point where I’m thinking what’s next, as we do, maybe especially when we get to a certain age. I think this piece is a little about that, too, though it may not be obviously so. I’ve got these dogs, the dogs are getting old, there are reflections along the way. There are a lot of different levels there for me.”

This year’s Festival of New Dance features a diverse line-up of performers and themes, by artists from across the country and as far away as Germany.

Montreal’s George Stamos will open the festival with “Liklik Pik,” an intimate male duet performance with a plethora of props, emphasizing, Stamos said, “empowerment of queer bodies while following imaginative impulses and tangents along the way.”

Also from Montreal, Virginie Brunelle’s “Complexe des genres” explores the concept of the search for self through relationships, featuring a daring, acrobatic choreography.  Sasha Ivanochko and Aaron Lumley will present “Trio for Musician, Dancer and Double Bass,” a performance in which the relationship between dancer and musician is explored.

Local performances include “Dance-me,” Liz Solo’s long-awaited hybrid-reality piece, as well as “Electric City,” featuring Boyd Chubbs and Sarah Joy Stoker.

“Boyd had written a piece of music and I actually saw Sarah in the studio the day after (he had spoken to her about it),” said Ruth Lawrence, festival publicist. “She said, ‘Boyd Chubbs has asked me to work on this piece with him and I’ve never done something like that before.’ I can remember the moment when she was just trying to wrap her head around it, and now they have come up with this piece. They’re calling it a travel log in three temperaments … and it’s a nice short piece, but very intriguing. They are performing live together, too; it’s not that she’s just using his music. It will be very interesting to see Boyd on stage with a dancer and see what he does.”

The festival’s closing party at The Ship Pub will feature a show by duo Mortified (Jenn Goodwin and Camilla Singh of Toronto), which uses tap dancing, drumming and cheerleading to create their performances.

Other pieces to be shown during the festival include Amber Funk Barton’s “Hero & Heroine,” Tina Fushell’s “Waving is Funny,” Maya M. Carroll’s “Magic Valley,” and Manuel Roque’s “RAW-me.”

Throughout festival week, there will be pop-up performances on Signal Hill and Water Street, “curtain-riser” performances by Let’s Dance from Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Kittiwake Dance Theatre, and a slate of workshops conducted by some of the featured performers on a variety of topics. Local docu-dance artist Louise Moyes will animate post-show talks, and coffee house chats will happen upstairs at Hava Java every morning at 11 a.m.

“As you can imagine, it will be quite intimate and the dancers will be exhausted, so you can ask them anything,” Lawrence said.

More details and ticket information for all performances is available online at festivalofnewdance.ca.


Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: The Ship Pub, Kittiwake Dance Theatre

Geographic location: Germany.Montreal, Montreal, Electric City Toronto Magic Valley Signal Hill Water Street Happy Valley Goose Bay

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