Festival Artist Feature: Jillian Peever

Photo by James Park

This year, we are excited to be using a new venue, IICSI’s ImprovLab at the University of Guelph. We cannot wait to see the stunning solo work The View From Here performed by Jillian Peever, with choreography by Sasha Ivanochko presented at this state-of-the-art Lab on Saturday June 1, at 4 PM. Jillian discusses the process of creating The View From Here while navigating pandemic lock downs and a growing family!

What motivated you to make the work you will be sharing at the Guelph Dance Festival?

Jillian: In November 2017 I became a mother. After a few months of recovery and self-discovery, I began putting this project into motion. I felt a new sense of confidence in myself as a person and that made me feel stronger as an artist too. And so, I felt confident enough to ask my mentor and teacher, Sasha Ivanochko to create a piece on me. Since meeting Sasha I knew that I wanted to learn from her bold artistry and powerful presence. This was a chance to learn through a creative process. The first creative process was everything I could have hoped for. I felt so creative and strong, and we worked well and quickly together. The piece grew through the pandemic, as did my family, and now I feel grateful every time this piece brings us together to discuss the work, and art and production.   

How long have you been working on this piece and how has it changed since its inception? 

J: The first creative process took place in the summer of 2019. Within about 8 days we had a first draft of the piece, and were even able to play with lighting design with Noah Feaver at that early stage. It was then picked up by Citadel + Compagnie for a Night Shift presentation that was being planned for November 2020, but of course… the pandemic … But we were still lucky enough to fit a few rehearsals in and continue the development of a set in between windows of lockdowns. I also grew my family during this time, meaning I was pregnant for one period of rehearsals in 2020, and then when we moved towards the postponed presentation in Oct-Dec 2021, I was then 8-11 months postpartum, still nursing and getting no sleep. It was a very challenging time balancing a big shift in my life with this performance, but it also brought me so much renewed passion for the artform that I love so much. Sasha also had a big shift in her life, moving back to Toronto to lead The Dance Arts Institute (formerly the School of Toronto Dance Theatre) into a new chapter, and so we brought in Jordana Deveau as rehearsal director, and what a great addition to the team that was. Her ability to translate Sasha’s ideas into new and different words for me to interpret is excellent, and as a good friend of mine she adds that extra support where I need it. Just this past fall the work shifted once more as we travelled to Ottawa and shifted the ending slightly. 

What was your biggest takeaway from the process of creating this work?

J: That I am good enough. I have always been a “hard worker”, that part of me is tied to my personality and my upbringing. I understand that hard work can lead to accomplishment, but in some ways “working hard” held me back because it meant I always had work to do, that I wasn’t a strong enough artist yet. In this creation process I took on a leadership role with a team of artists who are truly masters at what they do, and that had me feeling under-qualified at times. I quickly learned by working hard with my head down, I wasn’t as available to hearing what others had to say, or to seeing mistakes that need to be righted, or to breathe in my gratefulness often enough. Being in a place where I can say “I am enough” means I can take some time outside of the hard work, and breathe, to listen, to have a moment of appreciation. Accepting the virtuosity I do possess is sometimes hard to do, but performing this piece reminds me that I do have greatness in me. Of course I have to train and prepare for the challenges this piece brings, but knowing that I am enough- that I will be enough by performance time, is a feeling I know I can get back each time, and that process is one of the joys of being a performing artist. I’m so grateful I get to practice this way, and I feel it as a powerful force that moves me in my daily life too. 

Be sure to secure your tickets to this performance happening Saturday, June 1 at 4 PM. Single event tickets and festival passes are available now, priced on a sliding scale.

Photo by James Park
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