Remounting and Recasting: a vision reimagined

In the weeks before the Festival, we’ve been featuring several GCDF dance artists here on the blog. These amazing pieces give us an intimate, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the artistry, process, and experiences these talented dancers and choreographers from across the country are bringing to this year’s Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival We encourage you to not just read their amazing stories, but to ask questions or engage in conversation about dance in our comments section below.  Get ready to Power Up!
Yvonne Ng, artistic director of Toronto’s tiger princess dance projects tells us what influenced her when developing and then remounting Cypress, which presents at our On the Stage, Stage B on Saturday, June 2, at 8pm.
Yvonne: The choreographic foundation of Cypressprobably began in studio about fifteen years ago.  I was choreographing a solo work with Susan Lee and, once I had built the bare bones of it on Susan (and I promise there was no evil twinkle in my eye, no matter what she says), I asked her to re-run the solo but switch the axis from vertical (standing up) to horizontal.  That piece was eventually named Blue Jade and, with the addition of a 12-foot long dress designed and constructed by Catherine Thompson and sound by Ted Onyszczak, we had some success with it, performing it a couple of times in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.  
Cypress remounted. Photo by Brianna Lombardo.
That got me thinking about constriction and how it can be used as a tool to progress a choreographic phrase from one state into another.  For some reason I was also reading about the current therapeutic treatment for stroke victims suffering from partial paralysis, and that is to constrain their fully functioning arm so that the brain rewires itself to recover functional use of the paralyzed arm.
So in creating Cypress in 2002, I worked with a few dancers—Susan Lee, Justine Chambers, Alison Cummings and Karen Bennedsen. To further experiment, I used two techniques: flipping the axis and constricting their movements.  What I ended up with (also because of the contribution of these dancers) was a subtle work of choreography that is actually much harder to perform than the audience is ever aware of.  Usually only performers understand that moving fast is easy and moving slowly requires precise muscle control and stamina.  
For the presentation in 2002, I invited Juliet Palmer to compose a score and she developed a haunting duet for clarinet and double bass performed by Peter Pavlovsky and Robert Stevenson.  The worked premiered with Susan Lee, Justine Chamber and Susanne Chui performing the work exquisitely.  Following the premiere, Paula Citron, Dance Critic for the Globe and Mail planted a seed—what would the work be like if it was interpreted by three men instead of three women? 
Cypress remounted. Photo by Brianna Lombardo.
In hindsight, I worked with women because I started with Susan on the earlier piece Blue Jade and grew the cast from there. I never had a particular intention regarding gender or body type. However, with Paula’s suggestion I started to think…
I had always wanted to take up Paula’s idea of recasting the work, but raising money for a remount for anything other than a super-successful piece is really really difficult.  Then one presenter showed interested in it in Montreal, even though it’s an “old” work, and from there I received other invitations in Guelph and Toronto, and with those we were up and running.
The process of re-setting the choreography on these three remarkable men—Louis Laberge-Côté, Brendan Wyatt and Hiroshi Miyamoto—was a truly fantastic journey for which I am grateful. Not just through the memory lane experience, but also through being able to revisit ideas and vocabulary after so many years. It has been all at once fun, strange, embarrassing, enlightening and fulfilling.  
Cypress remounted. Photo by Brianna Lombardo.
The work has changed, of course, due to the differences in the physicality of the men versus the women. The fact that they are men influences their interpretation of the movement vocabulary and concepts.  Thank you, Paula. 
One of the decisions that I had to make was for the costumes.  In the end, for the men, I went with simple pants and shirts in neutral tones to reinforce the initial premise of the work: the longevity of friendship. 
Yvonne Ng founded tiger princess dance projects (tpdp) in 1995. tpdp creates and preserves dance works with a unique Canadian perspective reflecting Yvonne’s personal and artistic vision, which involves experimentation and collaboration with a spectrum of artistic disciplines. Since 1995, tpdp has commissioned, produced and presented thirty-three works. These works have been shown across Canada, in Ireland, Germany, Australia and Singapore, receiving critical and commercial acclaim. Four of the works have garnered eight Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations for performance and choreography.
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