When Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage,” he could have very well been writing about this.
Every garden is a possible stage this weekend in St. John’s, as Neighbourhood Dance Works (NDW), in partnership with DanceNL, present "Kittiwake Dance Theatre — in your backyard."
Audiences of all ages can choose from an à la carte menu of dance options: a range of musical choices, preferred number of dancers, and dance styles they’d like to see performed amongst their rose bushes.
“I’m watching the orders come in, and every one so far is different from the other because everybody has a bit of a selection that they can customize,” said Calla Lachance, artistic director at NDW.
While the idea came to fruition in light of the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not entirely new for NDW.
“We do projects all the time that really bring dance in new directions, and allow people an opportunity to see how dance can be a very lively and in-the-moment kind of artform,” explained Lachance, pointing to their popular Halloween Zombie-Grams — in which dancers dressed as zombies perform at workplaces and parties — as an example.
But it’s a first for Kittiwake artistic director and choreographer Martin Vallée.
He said the pandemic has changed his dance theatre’s entire three-year plan, including the cancellation of a west coast tour in May and an October performance at the Arts and Culture Centre.
At his studio on Tuesday, however, it appeared business as usual as a group of younger dancers hurried out the door, and Anasophie Vallée, Hannah Drover and Stephanie Campbell entered the rehearsal space in light-as-air, blush-coloured dresses.
As their bare feet moved deftly across the shiny black floors, one could envision the trio surrounded by greenery on a sunny evening, chasséing through the grass.
Vallée and Lechance both said the pandemic has encouraged new ways of thinking about how to perform — and they don’t just mean using a digital platform, as many artists have been doing since restrictions took effect back in March.
“I think this (pandemic) is going to create amazing stuff in the long run, there’s no doubt about it because big changes always bring in great things in the long run, I think. It makes artists uncomfortable, and it’s perfect.
"Streaming is TV, it’s video, it’s two-dimensional. So, it’s not going to cut it in the long run, so we have to find different ways,” said Vallée.
“I think this (pandemic) is going to create amazing stuff in the long run... because big changes always bring in great things in the long run, I think. It makes artists uncomfortable, and it’s perfect." — Martin Vallée
Lachance said it’s been exciting to reimagine artistic programming during this time, and to think of new ways to support artists who have been hard-hit.
And while Lachance said it’s important to think digitally, it’s not the be all, end all.
“I really like the idea that (Garden Dances) is not about sitting at a screen, and it’s not about getting people to go to their laptop and turn something on; they can be in their backyard, and they can enjoy something in the spirit of community, art sharing and performance.”
Anyone interested in booking one of the roughly 10-minute performances for this weekend, Aug. 14 and 15 (with a rain day on Aug. 16), can visit neighbourhooddanceworks.com.