wardrobe choreographed by monica gan with Megan Andrews, Justine Chambers, Jennifer Dahl, Gan, Robert Glumbek, Learie McNicolls, Paul DeAdder and Stephanie Thompson. Presented by prn productions and DanceWorks CoWorks at Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander), April 17-20, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $20, stu/srs $18. 416-975-8555.
if you're travelling on the sub-way or walking along the street and see a shortish, androgynous Asian woman giving your outfit a major look-see, it could be Monica Gan.For the past two years, the indie choreographer's been developing a work called Wardrobe, an exploration of people, their clothes and movement.
"I'm not really into fashion," says Gan, "but I've always been fascinated by people who are able to wear unique clothes and make them look good, while others try and don't look right. Why can some pull it off?"
One day Gan was putting on a shirt and noticed the way she shrugged her shoulders to adjust the fit.
"I felt at that moment that this could be a dance," says Gan, who's danced for everyone from Learie McNicolls and Megan Andrews (who are both in Wardrobe's ensemble of eight) to Andrea Nann, CORPUS and Kate Alton.
"And if I could do a dance about a shirt, why not a pair of pants?"
Gan's research focused on three people, a boutique owner in Yorkville, a well-dressed dancer ("Why are so many dancers, people who don't have a lot of money, so stylish?" she laughs) and a fashion and performing arts photographer.
The varied program she came up with features everything from a trio about shoes to a runway-style catwalk featuring the work of fashion designers Michelle Hirtle, Magda Majczak and Zoran Dobric.
Gan made dances for the designers' creations based on the mood or feeling she got from wearing each piece.
Hirtle created a fetish piece, a chain attached to a leather choker and ankle strap. Gan wears it, exploring how the chain limits her movement but also accentuates certain gestures and stimulates a sense of play.
One of the ensemble pieces examines androgyny, something that's personal to Gan, who with her muscular, lithe frame and short haircut is often mistaken for a guy.
"For me, dance doesn't have a gender," she says. "Does it really matter if a dancer is male or female?"
The androgyny dance features male and female dancers each wearing the same outfit. Together they explore movement that's stereotypically associated with gender: hip-swaying for women, a more solid and square movement for men.
Originally a gymnast, Gan is also trained in Shaolin kung fu and Yang-style tai chi, both of which she says have influenced her choreography.
"In tai chi, the centre of your power is low down, in the middle of your stomach, near your hips," she says. "There's a groundedness in my movement that comes from the martial arts."
A working pharmacist by day, Gan also toyed with the idea of using uniforms in the work, but decided it was too huge a subject.
"If everyone dressed the same, how would that affect the kind of person you are?" asks Gan, clearly more comfortable asking questions than providing answers or analyses.
As for whether the piece has changed her own style, Gan laughs.
"I'm not very adventurous," she admits. "But I'm definitely more interested in fashion now. Once I finish this show, I think I'll enjoy shopping a whole lot more."