BEHIND MY BACK, choreographed by SARA PORTER, August 11 at 6:30 pm, August 13 at 2 pm and August 14 at 8 pm.Sara Porter's got improv in her soul, and the dynamic local dance light's fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists (fFIDA) show is proof positive.
She's also interested in the philosophy of the body, and by using videotape and her own physiology in her compelling new solo, Behind My Back, she explores new ways of presenting it.
"I've had to hold in the reins a lot," says Porter, the Halifax-born gymnast, athlete, musician, full-time York University dance professor and fFIDA veteran.
"That's because all my inclinations for making a piece have just been surging ahead. So I've structured it quite rigorously."
The video is set as a backdrop, so what you get is Porter improvising in front of herself improvising on the video. She also tells a little ad-libbed story, which she couldn't resist, about finding human bones on the beach -- body-related things like that.
"It's two versions of me," she says. "The video is the back of me, and I'm facing the front. So I'm sort of hiding from myself a little bit. It's like two different bodies dancing.
"Not only are there two different images -- one two-dimensional and the one of me in the present -- but it's also two very different-looking bodies. I'm basically having a disco on the video. I did that thing you're never supposed to do as a serious choreographer.
"I put on the music I like and danced my ass off, basically."
She says she was responding to an overwhelming inclination as a dancer to just move.
"But the other urge as a choreographer is to make a dance that has more layers to it -- more thinking, more ideas. You really can't, as a creator, just put on the music and go to it. That's not enough.
"And since I'm trying to explore ways of presenting the body, sexually and otherwise, the improv in front of the video is much more linear."
THE INTIMATES, choreographed by PETER BINGHAM, August 16 at 9:30 pm, August 18 at 6:30 pm and August 20 at 2 pm.
EDAM artistic director Peter Bingham has been exploring relationships in his work for years. In the process, he's tried to translate contact improvisation into choreography. Now, with The Intimates, he thinks he's finally succeeded.
"It's a duet about a heterosexual relationship based on contact improvisation as a physical style," says Bingham from Vancouver.
"I wouldn't say it's overly romantic, but I would definitely say it's about the normalcy of intimacy -- that repetitious, daily way of being close to someone else."
It's also about the modern-day concept of mutual support between a man and a woman.
"You know how these days both people work, both raise kids, both support each other, both do everything?" asks Bingham. "The piece isn't necessarily about equality, but it's a metaphor for equality in a relationship -- particularly in the contact work, where the man and the woman are so equally matched."
This piece made Bingham realize he was close to realizing his contact improv dreams.
"For me, in terms of styling, it's not a bastardization of contact. It really is how contact, as improvised, appears. But here it's not improvised. It's set. And I feel that the physicality of the duet itself is really similar to the improvised product.
"I've spent a lot my career trying to achieve that. It's always been one of my goals. And these particular dancers were able go into quite a bit of depth with each other personally, which made it an easy make for me.
"People have perceived it as erotic. It doesn't immediately feel that way to me. What's most distinctive about it is that it shows a lot of intimacy without being too sentimental or mushy."
HOLLOW PLACES, choreographed by SUNNY DIXON, August 16 at 9:30 pm, August 18 at 6:30 pm and August 20 at 2 pm.
Edgar Allan Poe's The Conqueror Worm is the inspiration for Toronto's Sunny Dixon, who's conjured, in Hollow Places, a ghostly dance tale of two young girls who go back to the house where they were murdered.
"The hollow places are those places in your own life behind the closed doors of your mind," says Dixon, who has enlisted pal Stephanie Thompson to join her in the piece.
"They're the places in your life that are emotional voids. And we just went into them to see what would happen. The literal idea is that the girls are actually in this house, being flooded by the experiences they had there."
The pair rehearsed in an old church, so with the Poe premise and the creepy space, the tone was set for their haunted duet.
"I wanted to go for something creepy and really eerie," says Dixon.
It's a far cry from Blonde Jokes, the light, airy and upbeat show that Dixon, Thompson and three other hot young hoofers put on early this summer at the Opera House.
"We really gear things to audience appreciation," she says. "We want people to feel comfortable sitting and watching dance. Sometimes dance can be intimidating if you're not a regular viewer.
"You get tired of dancing for the same dancer-type audience. Performing just for your peers takes the mystery away."
TOXITOK, choreographed by JENNIFER JOHNSON, August 16 and 18 at 11 pm.
Two proper ladies share lunch. After, over cigarettes and sherry, they talk about life, love and labour and become ensnared in what T.O. choreographer Jennifer Johnson calls their "toxic babble," full of ego and self-pity.
"It's called ToxiTok," chuckles Johnson, who plays one of the ladies, with Siobhan Paton. "It takes place in this post-apocalyptic -- what I'm calling 'post-ascension' -- futuristic cafe. Most of humanity has moved on to a higher state of being. Those left behind have been chained to their follies.
"And we're two who are trapped in this realm. We're chained to our sins and our toxic lifestyles. The piece uses text and movement, so we're kind of bantering back and forth and wallowing through all the different levels of our sad stories."
Johnson says the text she's written is warped, and in turn the movement is very pedestrian and, yep, warped. It's not a straightforward scene, it's more like poetry through which the two file their complaints.
"So I kind of worked backwards," she says. "I went from a stream-of-consciousness that ended up with a theme. The movement is very modern and abstract. It's full of constraints. We're actually chained to the table and try to break away."
And why such a dark theme?
"I work as a waitress, and these ladies are the ones I see," Johnson explains. "They've wasted so much time letting life pass them by. They're frustrated and panicky, and there's a real desire to escape.
"I think I just got fed up with people bitching and complaining and game-playing and bragging. We don't always escape. I just want to say, 'Get on with your life!'
"It's a metaphor for our souls."
URBAN RHYTHMS and RIVER, choreographed by JOANNA DAS, August 12 at 6:30 pm, August 14 at 2 pm and August 15 at 8 pm.
In her group piece called Urban Rhythms, Toronto kathak mainstay Joanna Das has used the very rigid technique of the East Indian classical dance form to express some highly contemporary themes.
"It uses the narrative part of kathak storytelling in a contemporary setting to display the flow of the early morning in the big city," says Das, who performs her new solo, River, on the same bill.
"Things like waking up, having a shower, drinking a coffee, getting yourself ready and ultimately getting on the subway for work.
"The idea of it is joyful and fast-paced, so what I wanted was to use the narrative aspect of the movement and transport it from its traditional context into a more contemporary, approachable one that is accessible to everybody. Because we all have to get up and get going."
This isn't the first time Das has tried to meld the modern with the controlled forms of kathak. And she makes no bones about it.
"I'm really at home doing that," she says. "My background is in all the traditional kathak stories and doing characterizations in that context. But I've also tried to speak more to the element of myself that is western.
"I like to think of myself as open-minded and very free-spirited. I want to be able to put that into my dance expressions. And there are very subtle ways of doing that -- like very seldom do you leap or get down on the ground in kathak. But I'll incorporate that without any reservations whatsoever.
"I'm steeped enough in the tradition that I can take liberties -- as long as I feel they're appropriate. Oh yes, I do like to blur the edges of the circle a little bit!"
fringe FESTIVAL OF INDEPENDENT DANCE ARTISTS (fFIDA), opens tomorrow (Friday, August 11) and runs to August 20 at various times. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander). $10, festival passes $100. For complete festival schedule, see dance listings, page 54. Box office 975-8555, hotline 410-4291.
Canada's largest dance festival, the 11-day fringe FESTIVAL OF INDEPENDENT
DANCE ARTISTS (fFIDA), celebrates its 10th anniversary with the boldest slate
of indie talent ever assembled on the Buddies stage. Let the dancing begin.