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Reframing the neighbourhood: dancing through Long’s Hill in St. John’s

The artists behind this year's docu-dance-style performance called "Long's Hill: I Live(d) Here," which will be streamed from the LSPU Hall in downtown St. John's today at 7 p.m., are (from left) performer Andrea Tucker, Neighbourhood Dance Works artistic director Cala Lachance, concept creator, researcher and director Louise Moyes, performer Ryan Davis and performer Elizabeth Sophie Angnatok. — Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
The artists behind this year's docu-dance-style performance called "Long's Hill: I Live(d) Here," which will be streamed from the LSPU Hall in downtown St. John's today at 7 p.m., are (from left) performer Andrea Tucker, Neighbourhood Dance Works artistic director Cala Lachance, concept creator, researcher and director Louise Moyes, performer Ryan Davis and performer Elizabeth Sophie Angnatok. — Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

In third year, ‘Long’s Hill: I Live(d) Here’ goes virtual as they cut the LSPU Hall rug

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

In 2013, Louise Moyes watched as the neighbourhood she called home, Long’s Hill in downtown St. John’s, increasingly became an area stricken with drug use and crime.

“There’s was a period of six months where the neighbours were really afraid someone was going to get caught in the crossfire,” she said. “There were volatile situations happening, mostly at night, but sometimes in the day.”

Moyes is a multi-disciplinary artist who writes and performs what she calls docu-dances.

“I describe it as seeing a documentary onstage,” Moyes said.

In 2018, she produced the first performance of one of her docu-dances, “Long’s Hill: I Live(d) Here.” Originally, it was a 90-minute walk through the neighbourhood around Long’s Hill, which weaved together interviews she conducted with local business owners, children, sisters who grew up there in the ’50s, street-based sex workers, church groups, sociologists and the written works of historians and local authors. The walk ended with tea and cookies at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, also known as The Kirk, on Queen’s Road.

“Through making the show I feel more comfortable and connected with my neighbourhood,” Moyes said. “It’s a real overview of our neighbourhood through the ages, and you get a real sense of the richness of our historic neighbourhood.”

As she prepared for this year’s performance, Moyes said the restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic made it unlikely it would happen.

But as they prepared to wind down, Moyes was approached by Cala Lachance, the artistic director of Neighbourhood Dance Works. Lachance informed Moyes that the National Arts Centre was rerouting funds it would usually spend on bringing international artists to Ottawa, to help artists in Canada perform livestreams.

Moyes was uncertain whether the outdoor walk would translate to the screen. But after a while, she said, “It became fun to think, how can we reconceive it for the theatre?”

Today at 7 p.m. NST, a performance of “Long’s Hill: I Live(d) Here” will be livestreamed from the LSPU Hall on Victoria Street.

Andrea Tucker was the rehearsal director for the 2018 performance. This year she will perform dance and text in the show. Being able to perform at this time is fabulous, Tucker said.

“I’m so grateful,” she said. “There are people that are unable to be in spaces with other people and we’re here, we all enjoy each other’s company and we’re able to come together and make art. It’s fantastic.”

Much like a neighbourhood changes over time, so too does the show. This year, there are references to Snowmageddon, the snowstorm in January that put St. John’s into a state of emergency, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another new addition to this year’s performance is the work of Elizabeth Sophie Angnatok, who is originally from Nain, but has been a resident of the Long’s Hill area for 20 years. She will add her voice to the piece by singing a traditional Inuit song called “Kuviasulipunga,” which means “I Am Happy” in English, as well as drumming and throat singing.

“It feels great, I’m quite excited (and) I can’t wait to see the whole performance,” Angnatok said. “It’s really good to be included, having your Inuit history included.”

To watch “Long’s Hill: I Live(d) Here,” go online to https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/27704. The free livestream will be available for a 24-hour period after the performance.


Andrew Waterman reports on East Coast culture.

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