Moments of inspiration
Seeds in Time showcases dance works in progress
Among the works being presented in sneak peek form during Niagara Dance Company’s third annual Seeds in Time will be ora:cle, a work in development by artistic director Mary Jo Mullins for the company.
It was a little more than three and a half years ago when Mary Jo Mullins first made a public presentation of her dance piece entitled ora:cle. Audiences at the 2009 James Street Night of Art can be assured that if they see it again this weekend, it’ll be entirely different. Still a work in progress by the artistic director of Niagara Dance Company, ora:cle is undergoing a second transformation.
When she originally presented the piece in a store front window, Mullins was in the very early stages of it. While she had done some research for it, Mullins said she had not rehearsed the piece’s physicality — the actual dance moves. In a way, she said, it was like an improvisation.
“It was like me being inside my creative flow, where I had witnesses,” she said.
Originally conceived as a solo piece, ora:cle now involves four dancers, and has expanded to be accompanied by four musics movements instead of two. However, it’s still not finished, and that’s where the audience for the company’s upcoming Seeds in Time program comes in.
Now in its third year, Seeds in Time is an informal presentation series that has dance artists presenting their work while it’s still in development. Along with ora:cle, the audience will have a chance to see solos by three other company members: Loop, by Emma Kerson, Rose by Hannah Robinson and Uprising by Erin Amadio.
Mullins said each performance will be relatively brief — between five and 10 minutes — and will be followed by a discussion with the artist, in which audience members will be able to learn about what inspired them and the creative process involved in developing their work.
The series is a particularly popular one for the company, Mullins said, in part because of how in enables audience members to engage with the work.
“Our audience absolutely loves it,” she said.
Mullins does, though, dispute the notion that dance itself is inherently inaccessible, or that it’s a challenge “to get it”. She said that just hasn’t been her experience in the past when she’s taught at schools — both elementary and secondary — or participated in other outreach programs, such as Seeds in Time.
“The idea of not being able to understand it is a bit of a myth,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s as strong as people like to think.”
Mullins said some choreographers have a particular meaning audiences are meant to understand, while others are less rigid in how the work is interpreted. And while she admits dance is an abstract way to communicate an idea (unlike theatre, there’s no words), it’s no more so than other art forms, such as music or visual arts.
“It makes you feel a certain way,” she said. “The elements of the art form speak for themselves. That’s what I believe people respond to, they identify with, they engage with.”
The other pieces in the program are earlier in their development. In Rose, Robinson tells the story of her grandmother, Roseann Kiyawasew, who was taken from her home at a young age and placed in a residential school.
Meanwhile Loop, an investigation of circles, rounds, repetition, and loss, is at a very early stage. In a way, Loop is where ora:cle was back in 2009.
The title Seeds in Time points to the germination of these ideas and the notion that what the audience will be seeing is a snapshot of the work at a particular point in time.
Interestingly, in notes provided for audiences at the James Street Night of Art, Mullins included the following sentence: “In another space and time... I will develop these movement visions.. echoes... blurbs.”
Seeds in Time takes place Jan. 18-20 at Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre at 101 King St., St. Catharines. Performances are Friday at 1 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, with cash sales only at the door.
For more information, contact 905-684-6255 or email@example.com or visit www.niagaradancecompany.com .
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