Karen Kaeja on Creating Her Latest Work

Karen Kaeja is currently at work creating Crave to Tell, a piece commissioned by the GCDF for the upcoming Women’s Voices performance.

Karen: There are no two better places to be than in the studio and in Guelph. I am truly in my element here. I love the pre-rehearsal anticipation. Each day that my wheels slick the pavement from Toronto to Quebec Street I feel the excitement begin to percolate through my body as if it is attuning to the calling of the work (preparation happens in the most unusual ways!). I walk up the stairs into the studio and it’s like a charge of lighting drops in, the fire ignites.

On the first day while the dancers were shifting through their stretching and warming and settling, I observed them. I get so much information from all of these nuances and initial interactions. Our initial time together fuels my continuum. I am not a choreographer with a routine of how I hit the deck. Each creation is a new possibility and I really do not know where it might go or what it might end up being. Sometimes I come in with a seed of curiosity that I will be inspired from but it may not stick and I secretly hope it does not. This allows me the freedom to follow a thread or many threads until the work finds its voice. In some way there ends up being an indirect link to my initial imaginings.

Shannon, Sue and I got together in Toronto before embarking on rehearsals with FOYF. I exposed my focus this year, which is based on secrets, and we were off to the races. It was a fully fueled conversation and enough to last for hours and hours of exploration.

My current inquiry of secrets kept and secrets shared is what I am stimulated by in this work. It is too tall an order for a short process such as this but it could become a long chapter of work in my life. All the pieces I am making this year share an element of this indirectly. The pressure to pair down the vastness of the exploration kept haunting me while I tried to be open to intuitive meanderings. My goal was to create a work that fits the dancers, one that is really of them and for them. Curious to discover in the body how and where secrets lay, how they affect our behaviour and how they shape our lives, witnessing such treasures of mystery and enchantment bring subtle and bold points of departure. I asked the dancers to only bring in secrets that they were ready and interested in sharing, and nothing that they could not depart with. We created a safe space to be with each other in the process, I hope! Some of the secrets became physical or vocal source material.

FOYF members have an obviously strong connection and this helped me understand its potential right away. I have treasured the amount of input and full on commitment the dancers have given me. I am a lucky woman!

Collaborating with Sue and Shannon has been beyond a dream. It has been an extremely ‘cooking’ relationship, very inspiring. Last night we began a creative session at 9:45pm and when we were too tired to go on at 12:15am, I suggested a little idea of mixing some of the dancers words in sung phrases and they could not help themselves but to go at it. They are a truly amazing team and boundless in ideas and tenacity. I love this way of working – incubating in the oven together.

Questions I ask to myself these days during creative process are: How do I mine something to become uncomfortable? How do I deal with my discomfort? How does the dancer’s discomfort or excitement affect my next choice? How do I fuel it with smell, taste, touch, and an everyday life palette of feelings, exactitude, perseverance and incubated expression? These questions may or may not be transmitted or dealt with, but they linger during my current existence.

I take pleasure in the intuitive and unknown nature of that which can never be exactly repeated. I never feel like I progress, but I feel different each time I create.

Being familiar with Guelph, through many visits and inclusions in the festival, I feel very welcome here. I have a long time friendship and professional relationship with many artists in the community here. I really feel like it is a 2nd home to me artistically and beyond!

Karen Kaeja of Kaeja d’Dance is a 2009 Dora performance nominee. She is included in The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Canadian Who’s Who, and Theatre Dance Encyclopedia in Canada and has won performance awards from Moving Pictures, the Paul D. Fleck Fellowship as one of Canada’s innovative artists of excellence, with nominations for the 10th Annual American Choreography Awards and the 2006 Banff World Television Awards. Noted in NOW magazine as “one of the country’s best dance artists”, her career as a performer, teacher, and creator spans ten countries and exceeds 17 internationally award-winning dance films at over 400 festivals.

On Thursday,March 8th, 2012, and in celebration of International Women’s Day, the Guelph Fab 5 is proud to present Women’s Voices. This fabulous event will take place at 7pm at John F. Ross, E.L. Fox Auditorium, 21 Meyer Drive, Guelph. Tickets can be purchased at the door and all proceeds will go to Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis. After the show, we invite you to join us for a reception.  

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