Up in the Air with Femmes du Feu

In the weeks until the Festival gears up, we will be featuring several GCDF dance artists here on the blog. Please join us each week as we get 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 GuelphContemporary 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!
Today, Toronto-based Femmes du Feu co-directors, Holly Treddenick and Sabrina Pringle, interview each other. Femmes du Feu performs BoB at the GCDF in Exhibition Park in Guelph on Thursday May 31, 7pm; Saturday June 2, 12pm; and Sunday June 3, 12pm.

Holly: What kind of safety precautions do you take with aerial work and rigging? Are you ever scared?

Sabrina: When we train, we often have mats under us and use each other to spot. That doesn’t mean we don’t get our fair share of bumps and bruises though! Learning how to rig safely takes time and experience. Rigging requires extensive knowledge of gear and its capabilities, figuring out where your weakest link is and building in redundancies, and a bit of math. I’ve been learning for a long long time. Actually, I learned to tie my first bowline at 10 years old, sailing at summer camp. 
I think a bit of fear is healthy, it keeps us safe. If I’m doing something that’s, let’s say, higher than normal, I just remind myself nothing has really changed, if I’m able to do it every time 10 feet off the ground then I can do it 50 or 100 feet off the ground. Also, always keep breathing. If it’s a new move I’ve never done, then I just make Holly go first.
Sabrina and Holly perform BoB. Photo by Peter Benedetti

Sabrina: What’s your favorite apparatus and why?

Holly: It’s really hard to say which apparatus is my favorite. I love the silks for so many reasons. This is where I started my aerial journey, so they always have a feel of home. Silks are also similar to ballet in that they are a great fundamental to all other aerial apparatuses, so I always train with them. I feel very comfortable in the silks and can easily play and improvise.
But my real passion lies in invented apparatuses. There is so much discovering and no pre-existing rules or expectations. Sabrina and I have had a lot of fun dreaming up new apparatuses, altering apparatuses we are already familiar with, and experimenting with different rigging systems.  
Bar none, the apparatus I laugh the most with is bungee!

Holly: Can you tell me about the story for BoB?

Sabrina: BoB is about two women on a sea adventure gone wrong. It’s a bit dark but also funny, sometimes very funny. Oh, and you could say it’s a bit of a “period piece” because our costumes reflect a time of more… polyester in swimwear and lifejackets that make a person look… small. 

Sabrina: The first time you discovered the costumes for BoB, what were you thinking??

Holly: The bathing suits we wear in BoB I’ve been carrying around in my tickle trunk for more than 10 years. They are treasures from Goodwill By The Pound when it used to be on Jarvis [St. in Toronto]. After class at TDT I used to love going costume hunting there.
The life jackets I found on the side of a lawn on a stroll up the Bruce Peninsula. Obviously I instantly thought “Costumes! I know Sabrina and I need these for sure!” They sat in my basement for a couple years, but I knew the perfect piece would eventually reveal itself!

Holly: How did you learn bungee dance?

Sabrina: In my living room with Holly. 

Sabrina: Can you tell us a story about a rehearsal moment (for Bob)?

Holly: Bungee is such a fun apparatus to work with. Sabrina and I spend our whole rehearsals laughing. This isn’t so much a story as it is a description of the general vibe of our first rehearsal.
We are all rigged up in our harness with the bungee clipped to the back point. We are clipped in just high enough so we’re on our toes, not able to ground our feet, constantly doing a little bouncy tiptoe dance. And we’re stuck to our respective circumferences, suspended from the ceiling. I feel hilarious and a little ridiculous. And then I look to my side at my best friend, and I crack up because she looks like how I feel.
Then we start to improvise. How we would dance together if we were sinking to the ocean floor. Not quite crazy enough? Lets put on some Iron Maiden. More explosive laughter and some really good moves are discovered. “This piece is going to choreograph itself”!
Founded in 2003, Femmes du Feu is co-run by dance artists Holly Treddenick and Sabrina Pringle.  Since its conception, Femmes du Feuhas been actively creating and presenting aerial dance works and investigating new ways to combine their dance backgrounds with their aerial skills. This has included not only finding new ways to dance with traditional circus apparatuses like bungee in Impossibility(2007), or silks in Dive(2009), but has more recently branched into invented apparatuses such as the anchor, rope or pole, as in The Plank (2010) or Airship(2011). Femmes du Feuhas presented their aerial dance works at various events including At The Wrecking Ball (2007), Hysteria Festival (2009), London/ Toronto/ Winnipeg Fringe Festivals (2009 & 2010), and Rhubarb Festival (2010).
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