The craft of choreography

Artists-in-residence program produces thoughtful double-header

“I’m living the dream this month.”

So says Tara Wilson one of two choreographers to participate in this year’s five-week artist-in-residence program at Dancers’ Studio West (DSW). She and Alida Nyquist-Schultz have spent over a month delving into the process of creating contemporary dance mentored by DSW artistic director Davida Monk with input from resident dramaturg Zach Moull.

Through the program the choreographers are each creating a piece to present to the public but being an artist in residence is about more than the final product. “I’m really opening my creative process up to new ideas and to being pushed in directions that are a lot of times uncomfortable for me in the hopes that it will expand my choreographic skills” says Wilson. For her part Nyquist-Schultz explains “You’re investing in your career… because the tools that you learn here and you pick up here you’re going to want to carry that forward into your next process.”

Nyquist-Schultz spent her time expanding on a short piece called Withheld that she premiered last March with her Edmonton collective Good Women. In it she asked her dancers (Ainsley Hillyard Alison Kause Richard Lee and Kate Stashko) to express moments when they had withheld emotions from others and built their movements into a full dance. Nyquist-Schultz originally wanted to do a piece with a large cage onstage but instead decided to investigate the more abstract cages we all put ourselves in.

Nyquist-Schultz was interested in the “build and anxiety of wanting to express something and then not being able to holding yourself back swallowing the impulse and then living with that decision or that response that you have to that desire.”

“I think the desire to reach out to someone is something that we can all relate to and also all the vulnerability that that brings too” she says.

Wilson chose to look at the way so many of us mediate our experiences through our phones and other devices and this morphed into an exploration how we are often alone despite being surrounded by other people. While there’s no overt technology onstage you will see the telltale posture of someone’s head looking down at their phone. “Is it looking at yourself being obsessed with your own little world and what is that about because is that how we feel safe… what is that doing to us and why are we good with that?” Wilson asks. She explains that parts of her piece will be more accessible and other parts more abstract but regardless the overall goal is “to take the piece through an arc that is multidimensional and really is a journey of some sort — but maybe not a linear one.”

Residencies in general are rare for choreographers and one this long is even more so. And while the audience hasn’t been privy to the entire residency and creation process Nyquist-Schultz says that “it’s not your usual performance situation… I would find it really interesting to see Tara’s piece and my piece in the same evening knowing that they’ve both gone through the same residency.”

Wilson credits the talent of her dancers (Christopher Clare Jason Owin F. Galeos Rochelle Gartner and Danielle Wensley) as a strong reason to see the show but also gives kudos to Monk for creating the opportunity.

“What Davida is trying to do with the contemporary dance community is just so worthy of support and the number one way that people can support it is by coming to see these shows and to helping dance be alive in our city” Wilson says.

Nyquist-Schultz agrees. “This is a rare opportunity that DSW is presenting; I think it’s super important — super super important.”