Brendan Wyatt (left), Malgorzata Nowacka and Lee “Lethal” Pham battle it out.
THE CALM BEFORE... choreography by Malgorzata Nowacka. Presented by the Chimera Project and Harbourfront NextSteps at the Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Opens Monday (March 19) and runs to March 25, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $15-$35, Sunday pwyc. 416-973-4000. See listing.
When choreographer Malgorzata Nowacka asks to meet in person, my first reaction is fear. I've interviewed her several times before, but never face to face. I've always been a tad intimidated by her take-no-prisoners attitude and bold, ballsy presence - at least onstage.
"Oddly enough, some people are scared to meet me," she confesses when we do talk, over tea, her large clear eyes staring me down. "But I don't think I'm very intimidating in person."
Then she giggles, which makes the whole effect even more intriguing.
Coincidentally, The Calm Before..., Nowacka's latest work for her company, the Chimera Project, deals with confronting one's fears.
The work's hero (performed by Brendan Wyatt) is stuck in limbo and must confront his seven fears in order to leave.
What kind of fears are we talking about?
"There's the fear of crossing the line, the fear of touching, fear of love, of death..." She pauses, frowns, touches her bright red hair. "The fear of making mistakes."
She's still missing a couple.
"I should have brought my list," she says. "I keep a running list of fears, carry it with me as a reference."
"To know what I'm afraid of - so I can face it."
Good to see I'm not alone.
Nowacka says this new work feels more concrete than anything she's created before.
"With my other pieces, I'd focus on aspects of the story and explore them in an abstract way. But this one has a beginning, middle and end."
She balks at the term "narrative," however.
"A narrative happens," she explains, "but it's not like a story ballet. It's more like a subcutaneous narrative. Dance is ephemeral. The images set in dance create a sort of subconscious understanding in the viewer. So you understand what's going on in your gut more than in your brain."
Very true, especially in Nowacka's work, which has sported visceral titles like Blood and Keep All Sharp Objects Out Of My Way.
She's especially excited to be working with Lee "Lethal" Pham, who plays her protagonist's shadow and comes from the world of B-boy dance (his crew is called the Supernaturalz).
"He brings an entirely different movement language to the work," she says. "I love B-boy dance, its fascinating use of space. Those dance battles are amazing."
She's used to discovering emerging talent. Her company also produces the Fresh Blood Festival, a curated two-night program that kicks off Friday (March 16).
"If you look at 40, 80 applications, the unique entries stand out," she says. This year's fest includes works by theatre artist Waawaate Fobister, Paul Charbonneau and Jacob Niedzwiecki.
"They have five minutes each," she says. "No longer. After five minutes the stage goes black."
She laughs. See? Scary.