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Lucy Rupert breaks through with new dance piece about memory and identity

11 X FORGETTING choreographed by Lucy Rupert and Jenn Goodwin. Presented by Blue Ceiling Dance and DanceWorks CoWorks at Dancemakers Centre for Creation (55 Mill, Cannery Building), February 28 to March 4, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. Pwyc-$20. 416-204-1082. Rating: NNNNN

Dancer/choreographer Lucy Rupert is performing in a few days, but her right arm is in a cast. Something is wrong with this picture. Or is it?

“I broke two bones in my wrist last month, and I didn’t get surgery until two weeks after,” explains Rupert. “It was a big fiasco, the kind of thing that made me feel like Tommy Douglas was rolling over in his grave saying, ‘This is not what I meant by Medicare!'”

That Rupert has a sense of humour these days is telling. Seems odd, but because of the limitations put on her movement – and her ability to choreograph – she’s calmer than she usually is before a show premiere.

“Normally I create a piece by making it on my body and then giving it to the dancers to interpret in their own way,” says Rupert, whose previous dance shows have included homages to writers Henry Miller and T.S. Eliot.

“This time I had to sit and find the words and images to describe things to the dancers. At first it was frustrating, but soon I started to enjoy it. The dancers have had to discover the material themselves. They own it more.”

The ensemble piece 11 x forgetting was initially inspired by Radiohead’s Amnesiac album and Rupert’s own brush with amnesia, which occurred exactly one year before her father suffered a deadly stroke.

Download associated audio clip.

“A lot of people play with memory in theatre and dance, but forgetting is the flip side of that. It’s like trying to create something about limbo,” says Rupert. “The piece has become about identity. Who do you think you are? What survives? It’s a sweet irony that I fell down and had to find a new identity for myself.”

There will be some nods to the idea of looping and repetition, as explored in the film Memento. Each character in the piece, says Rupert, exhibits a flaw.

“One dancer is working with the idea that she can only see through the palms of her hands. Another feels there’s something behind her that she can’t see. And I’m mostly working with this whole new movement vocabulary and the fact that one half of my body isn’t working at the same rate as the other.”

Rupert describes Thom Yorke and his band as simultaneously obscure and accessible.

“They write tunes you can snap your fingers to and yet the songs aren’t just about a good hook or repetitive lyric. As I learned more about them and their approach to art and politics, I felt they would get this piece. So many of their songs touch on mental illness, how you cope with that rage that’s going on inside your head while the exterior can be quite calm. Which reminded me of my father’s stroke.”

Rupert’s also performing a solo that Jenn Goodwin choreographed for her. Some of the piece was created before her accident, so it had to be changed. There won’t be any furious floor work, for instance.

Download associated audio clip.

“And we’re not going to cover the cast,” she says. “It could be the big elephant in the room, but we might as well acknowledge that it’s there. Jenn integrated it into the piece, and asked me to add dialogue spoken by the doctors during my hospital stay.

“It’s all pretty funny, capturing the ridiculousness of the situation.”

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