Guelph Dance Festival 2013 Sneak Peek: 605 Collective

In the weeks leading up to Guelph Dance Festival 2013,some of the amazing dance artists who will perform at the Festival will also share their vision with us here on the blog. These intimate, behind-the-scenes looks will bring us closer to the artistry, process, and experience of dance. We encourage you to not just read these amazing stories, but to ask questions or engage in conversation about dance in our comments section below. Welcome to our 15th anniversary year!
605 Collective offers us a dialogue between choreographer Dana Gingras and Collective member and dancer Josh Martin who discuss the piece they will present at our On the Stage A performance on Friday, May 31, 8pm, at the River Run Centre. Gala and Talkback session to follow. Book your tickets now!
605 Collective also performs at our In the Park series.
Photo: Yannick Grandmont

Dana and Josh:

Humans are filled with beautiful beasts, our world is constantly teaching us tricks that repress and tame their natures. There’s freedom, dignity, fierceness and courage in allowing these animals back, to allow them their full physical expression. ––Dana Gingras
New Animal is 605’s first commissioned piece, by Dana Gingras (Holy Body Tattoo, Animals of Distinction), built over three years and between two cities. The initial research began in 2009 and was continued through smaller processes either in Vancouver or Montréal until the work had its world premiere at The Cultch in Vancouver in February 2012.
New Animal’s excerpt performance at this year’s festival makes Guelph the first city to receive the work after its premiere, with a Canadian tour coming up in Fall 2013.
“605 Run”. Photo by Rob Sondergaard
About the work
Dana: As my work at studying human movement has deepened over the past few years, I’ve developed a fascination for what’s both common with and what separates us from our animal ancestors. Theses animals are still inside of us; in our needs for territory, in fear responses rooted in survival, in the fight or flight, in the need for food, in our often unresolved needs for the limbic bliss of the pack-mind. But in us, these drives are repressed by our daily actions, social codes, and restrictions inherent in living on a vastly over-crowded planet; these powerful, defining instincts become awkward, twisted and neurotic. Instead of focusing on how these animals inside of us are tamed, ritualized & socialized, the work looks into our bodies and our lives to see where the animal cracks through to express itself most directly and profoundly: the places where we mate, where we play, where we break, where we survive. The theme of the piece is this: where the animal still speaks through us, in its least neurotic form. Where it has a voice, or rather, where it takes over ours.
“605 Run”. Photo by Rob Sondergaard
How the Commission came to be
Josh: This project actually began more than three years ago, just as 605 Collective was getting started. We were beginning to make more work together, which, in its early phases, was really based on our desire for peer-to-peer professional development. Work aside, it was clear that the more experience and diversity of backgrounds we had with us in the studio, the more these creative sessions were becoming personal learning experiences, expanding our practice as both individual artists and as a collaborative team. With this mindset, we then imagined how fantastic it would be to bring an inspiring established choreographer into this same environment we had created for ourselves, so we could all have a common experience of their creative process, their methods and artistic choices. The idea was that we could all reference and grow from this encounter, and, regardless of the outcome, apply whatever we had taken in to our future art-making. We really didn’t care what the piece was or even if it was performed. We just wanted face-to-face inspiration, and to learn through building something together, rather than being taught.
Dana turned out to be the most generous and thoughtful person we could imagine. She really went above and beyond what we could have ever asked from her in terms of her support and investment, in this project, and in us as young artists.
“605 Run”. Photo by Rob Sondergaard
How the work was created
Dana: In order to explore this theme, we began developing movement based on extreme states of human experience—the places in our lives where the animal voice can emerge. We started with research into these places, by reading survival manuals for things like bear or shark attacks. We did research on people’s physical responses to crises like earthquakes, floods, etc. We looked at this research to find the way the body worked when the rational mind was overwhelmed by the animal world, or by forces of nature. Through improvising a movement vocabulary with the collective based on this material, we started to enunciate the way our own animals moved, through and against us. During this part of the process, it became quickly evident that the phenomenal prowess and professionalism of the dancers quickly repressed the animals all over again! Their skill with the movement quickly dominated the language we were developing and made the movements beautiful, disciplined, full of rigour, but all-too-human.
We solved this problem by complicating the movement to the point where it nudged against the dancer’s limits. We layered complicated tasks overtop of the established movement; doubled vocabularies on top of each other. We did this to create challenges that would push the dancers into a place that was at the absolute limit of their skills, a place of near impossibility, with a vocabulary individual to each dancer. I wanted the actual demands of the movement to bring out the survival impulse, and to give the animal inside of these highly skilled, virtuosic movers a chance to break through.
Photo: Yannick Grandmont
Why lemons?
Dana: The lemons were a very powerful device to work with, in terms of bringing out unconscious reactions and visceral responses. Imagine biting into a lemon, for example. Simply thinking of this will cause your lips to tighten, and your saliva glands to react, completely uncontrollably and unconsciously. It’s a very visceral fruit, and pretty overwhelming to tear into. As well, lemon juice is extremely acidic, more even than vinegar. It burns pretty relentlessly, and causes real physical damage to the mouth and the skin. In research with the lemons I wound up damaging my face so badly I developed skin problems that lasted for almost a full year! So having the dancers work with the lemons provided a really interesting way to compromise their bodies into evoking involuntary animal responses. In the videos we created, we slowed down the frame-rate, which powerfully draws the pain and intensity of the involuntary physical response to the acid.
Here, the animal emerges, in its full glory!
Across the entire body of my work as a whole, I’ve always embraced imbalance and risk; in New Animal, 605′s sheer athletic power, skill, and commitment have allowed this exploration to go very deep.

605 Collective is a Vancouver-based company dedicated to producing new dance work through a shared creative process. As part of a new generation of creators, 605 places emphasis on movement innovation to create physically demanding works derived from the human experience, valuing collaboration as a tool for new directions in dance.

In the past 20 years, Dana Gingras has established herself as a boundary-pushing choreographer and performer. She is the artistic director of Animals of Distinction, a multi-media dance company established in 2006, and was also co-founder of wildly acclaimed The Holy Body Tattoo. Dana is an Associate Dance Artist of Canada’s National Arts Centre.

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