Dancing with herself

Denise Clarke has a conversation with the audience

While artists tend to describe all their works as “personal” choreographer dancer performer and One Yellow Rabbit ensemble member Denise Clarke says her new performance piece WAG is her most overtly personal creation to date.

So personal in fact she can recall the exact date that she conceived the idea for WAG : December 23 2012.

“It came together when I found myself in a bit of a pickle with nothing to do and a performance scheduled and a little bit of time given to me” Clarke says. “This piece was born out of a strong desire to talk about my situation in my way.”

That “way” that involves dancing performing and poetry. The title for the 107-minute solo piece comes from a phrase mentioned in the show “wag the dog’s tail.”

“It’s so great how dogs can’t hide their feelings…. There’s no mistaking when they’re happy” says Clarke.

While Clarke admits she has an “allergy” to describing the show in any great detail — she’d prefer people to come and experience the theatrical journey for themselves — she does reveal a few tidbits as to what the piece is about.

For starters WAG takes place over the past couple of years of Clarke’s life. “I talk and I dance I talk and I dance. It’s a conversation like watching someone muttering away to herself figuring things out…. This is an amusing way to talk about the stuff that is not funny at all and talk about it in a lighthearted way” she says.

Clarke says the show has a clear narrative that is easy for an audience to follow (“this is not a show of post-modern tricks”) and she believes people will leave the theatre with a sense of what she has been going through emotionally. Moreover she says people will have a “kinesthetic experience.”

“Dare I say it? WAG is entertaining” she says. “It’s a piece for me and for the audience.”

In that vein the show involves some “old school” dancing and performing. “I was really craving to dance to some great music to use my old-school dance chops.”

Clarke says concept and theme in modern dance often trump the dancing itself in today’s performance but she will dance “musically” to some of her favourite tunes. Like the rest of WAG Clarke’s musical choices are intensely personal and represent some of her favourite pieces — the show’s score includes some of the best recordings she could find of varied works from Gershwin and Strauss to Radiohead.

“I listen to this fantastic music and I dance to it. I don’t dance in spite of it or with it just as a background” she adds.

Clarke debuted WAG in Edmonton in March and there is a national tour in the works.

WAG runs at the Big Secret Theatre from October 9 to 12.