KEEP ALL SHARP OBJECTS OUT OF MY WAY choreography by Malgorzata Nowacka, presented by the Chimera Project at Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Tonight (Thursday, December 7) through to Saturday (December 9), 8 pm. $17-$27. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
Ask Malgorzata Nowacka about her dance influences and you don't get the usual suspects.
"Quentin Tarantino," she says, without missing a beat. "Reservoir Dogs is a bit too violent for me, but of course I love Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill."
Why a filmmaker and not a choreographer?
"He has an excellent sense of pacing," she says with the icy precision of Uma Thurman wielding a wushu sword.
Come to think of it, the maverick director with the untraditional background isn't too far off from the choreographer who's sliced and diced her way to the forefront of the contemporary dance scene.
Consider the title of her latest piece: Keep All Sharp Objects Out Of My Way.
"That," she giggles, "comes from that state where you're so tense and need people to get out of your way so they don't get attacked. It's a phrase my partner uses when he wants to get me to laugh."
Nowacka says she thrives on those high-stakes moments.
"Some panic in moments of chaos, but for people like me, things drop to the floor and all that's left is clarity and sharp decisions. Anything can go wrong, but you move forward and tackle the challenge with full force."
She tells me about a motorcycle accident that happened in Mexico, where she and her partner hit the pavement.
"I could see the tendons from his hand," she says. "I took off my top and tied it around his hand, leafed through a dictionary to find the word for doctor, with blood dripping everywhere."
The violence in Sharp Objects, her first full-length work, won't be so bloody. It'll mostly be internal.
"It's about confronting your deepest fears, those psychological ones," she says about the ensemble work. "The violence is beneath the surface, like that ghost that you need to confront to get on with your life."
More than most choreographers of her generation, Nowacka has come up with an identifiable style: fast, edgy and extremely difficult to execute.
"I think every choreographer has a signature, but it just becomes more clarified as they keep working," she says. "The things I look for in a work now an energy charge or sense of beauty even in something that's ugly are the same things I looked for when I was first starting out.
"But now I've sharpened those tools and am able to capture the experience better."