Water is life. We’re basically made of it. Our body composition is roughly 50 – 70% water. Water also covers 71% of the earth. We’re mysteriously connected to water – and that’s something that Vancouver’s Vanessa Goodman, artistic director of Action at a Distance Dance Society, explores in her new work, Never Still, which will open the Firehall Arts Centre’s 2018/2019 season on Wednesday, September 26.
This unique theatre experience is a dance show created in collaboration with dancers Shion Sky Cater, Stéphanie Cyr, Bynh Ho, Alexa Mardon, and Lexi Vajda, along with sound and projection designer “Loscil” (Scott Morgan), lighting designer James Proudfoot, and costume designer Lloyd. It promises to be a fascinating look at humanity’s relationship with water.
When it comes to exactly how water will be incorporated onstage, Vanessa is a little secretive – we’ll have to wait till we see the show to find out. She discussed with me how the show’s concept came about, and what audiences can expect from this very unique experience.
How did the concept for Never Still come about?
"Never Still started to take form before I even really knew what it would become. In 2013 I created two separate works that were inspired by similar themes. Both works dealt with our relationship to water, either in our environment or our bodies. For me, it was really just a matter of time before I began to really focus on these ideas as a full-length. But it wasn't until 2015 when I met Scott Morgan (Loscil) through Small Stage, where we first collaborated together, that I could imagine this work growing into what it is today. Each project requires the right collaborators to bring it to life.
The first in-depth research was during a 2016 creative residency in New Brunswick at Connection Dance Works. Loscil and I also made "Floating Upstream" that same year, a shorter piece that explored these ideas, which allowed us to develop some staging concepts. In 2017 I continued the research through a local choreographic residency at EDAM. I always knew I wanted this to be a group piece, and in the spring of last year, I finally had all the performers together: Shion Skye Carter, Stèphanie Cyr, Bynh Ho, Alexa Mardon and Lexi Vadja. The work would also not be complete without my longtime collaborator, lighting designer James Proudfoot, who is a master of painting space with light.”
It’s been said that Never Still explores water’s relationship to social, environmental, and biological themes. Can you elaborate?
“Liquid water is never truly still, which acts as a beautiful metaphor for dance and our own biological systems. It offers a myriad of avenues to explore anatomically and thematically. I feel like it's very easy in a developed urban setting to take water for granted and overlook its true value, and there's something intriguing about building a work around something so familiar and ubiquitous.”
Can you describe the process of developing the show?
“The show began with research surrounding ideas of precipitation with Loscil, which grew into the solo Floating Upstream. From there we continued to collaborate with three dance artists, and built a piece around biological themes and the human circulatory system.
After this phase, I brought all the collaborating dance artists together for a four week creation period to build the movement vocabulary for the piece. I always knew I wanted to film the dancers underwater to create a feeling of being submerged while in the theatre, and Scott incorporated elements of this into his beautiful visual projects for the piece. Now we are in the final phase of our process where all of the technical and physical aspects of the work are coming together in the theatre.”
What are you hoping audiences will take away from seeing the show?
“I hope the audience will have an experience that is unique to each person. I try not to say too much about what I want the audience to experience as I feel like each person might have a completely different understanding or reaction to the work and that is what makes it exciting to share.
I'm not interested in predicting what someone might take away as every performance is also unique and the collaborators are always responding to the moment they are in. This is part of what makes live art so exciting and special.”
What’s a fun fact about the show that audiences may not be aware of?
“The set is made out of a housing material called Tyvek. I knew I wanted to work with a set that swept through the space and could emulate a watery world, so I am working with this fantastic reusable material that is used to wrap houses and protect them from moisture while in the construction phase.”
Never Still runs September 26-29 at the Firehall Arts Centre. Visit the Firehall Arts Centre’s website for ticket information.
Never Still is created by Action at a Distance Dance Society in collaboration with:
Choreographic/Artistic Director: Vanessa Goodman
Choreography created in collaboration with the performers: Shion Skye Carter, Stéphanie Cyr, Bynh Ho, Alexa Mardon, & Lexi Vajda
Sound and Projection Design: Loscil (Scott Morgan)
Lighting Design: James Proudfoot
Set Design: Vanessa Goodman, James Proudfoot, & Scott Morgan
Creative Mentor: Peter Bingham
About Action at a Distance Dance Society:
Action at a Distance Dance Society is a Vancouver-based performance company under the artistic direction of choreographer Vanessa Goodman. The company respectfully acknowledge that it is working on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people. The priority of the company is to foster work that reflects the human condition, using dance to decode contemporary experience. It is the company’s goal to create immersive environments, working towards facilitating an engrossing experience for those who witness the work. Goodman was the recipient of the 2013 Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award and the 2017 Yulanda M. Faris Program. She has been commissioned to create works for the Dancing on the Edge Festival, The Gwaii Trust, Vancouver Biennale, and Simon Fraser University. Most recently, her work has toured nationally and internationally and been presented by DanceHouse, SFUW, The Canada Dance Festival, The Dance Made in/Fait au Canada Festival, The Bienal Internacional de Dança Do Ceará, On the Boards, The Risk/Reward Festival, The Dance Centre, The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, Small Stage, Push Off, Music on Main, and The Chutzpah! Festival. www.actionatadistance.ca