Fair Game: An interview with choreographer and dancer Susie Burpee by Lucy Rupert

SHARED PROGRAM – Lost & Found (Denise Fujiwara) / Fidelity’s Edge (Susie Burpee)

Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre
Thurs. Mar 4 – Sat. Mar 6, 2010, 8pm

Regular Ticket: $28, Student/Senior/CADA Ticket: $18

http://www.danceworks.ca or (416) 973-4000

Lucy Rupert: Could you speak a little bit about your process with each collaborator, in particular how you worked together for Fidelity’s Edge?

Susie Burpee: With Christine and John, the songwriters, it was very collaborative. Dan (Wild – Susie’s dance partner for Fidelity’s Edge and her preceding duet Mischance and Fair Fortune presented by DanceWorks in 2009) and I worked in Winnipeg for one phase of the process, and Christine and John would come into the studio to watch rehearsal, go home and record demos that we’d try out, and we’d keep going back and forth. The next month I joined them in the recording studio so I could see how that process worked and weigh in on tempos/instrumentation etc. I even sang back up vocals for one little part!

Be there on time.

Be there holding a homemade sign.

Be there to wave like a flag that could save what I’m leaving behind.

Leave me alone. But don’t leave me lonely.

I won’t let you down.

I will measure the pace while we’re racing our past.

And coming in last.

-John K. Samson

With Jean Philippe Trépanier’s lighting, the process is a little different – he collaborates with us during the show. He has a structured improvisation of lights that he manipulates while we perform, mirroring the action.

What made you start choreographing originally?

I imagined things that didn’t exist in the world and I wanted to make them exist.

What compels you to keep choreographing?

I am interested in people. In human nature. It’s my greatest curiosity and it’s why I make art.

Using the same characters as a previous piece and imagining them in a new situation sounds very satisfying, something that rarely happens (at least not consciously) in contemporary dance — how did you come to the decision to work with the same characters as in Mischance and Fair Fortune? Or was it apparent from the start of making Mischance and Fair Fortune (MFF)?

The characters in MFF never ever meet, so it seemed interesting to propose what their shared reality would be if they did meet. After performing MFF for a couple of years I began to think about a companion piece, also because I felt Dan and I had more to say as dance partners together.

How do you prepare for the vulnerability that your work demands: as a choreographer, as a dancer? Is it different between those two roles?

I prepare my body for challenging work by training with class and Pilates. I prepare my mind for choreographic vulnerability by trying to stay true to what I believe in. I prepare my spirit for dancing vulnerable work by investigating and delivering what the movement is saying, and letting the rawness live in that.

This is a personally-motivated question: I am curious about dancing in one’s own works. I have been told several times that maybe I should step out of my own work and though it sounds quite logical, in my gut it has never felt like the right thing do and I am fairly certain I have made the right choices … did you encounter these suggestions or thoughts? Why do you dance in your own work? (I know a vague sort of answer to this question for myself, but I am very curious to hear another artist’s thoughts).

It is hard to turn off the choreographer brain if you dance your own work. At some point, you have to trust what you’ve made, and then investigate it fully as a performer. I am more and more interested in stepping outside my work and working with other bodies. My process has changed and made room for this, and I have found a way now to send my voice through other people … It is nice to have the opportunity to continue this partnership with Dan, as I said before it felt like we had more to say in a performing partnership.

About Denise Fujiwara:

2010 marks Denise Fujiwara’s 32nd year as a dance artist. She is one of the most diverse talents to evolve on the Canadian dance scene; a sought after choreographer, dancer, teacher, impresario and actor.

She began her interesting career in childhood, as a gymnast, when she competed internationally for the Canadian Rhythmic Gymnastics team. Upon completing an Honours B.F.A. in Dance at York University, she became one of the founders of T.I.D.E. (Toronto Independent Dance Enterprise). Here she was instrumental in the creation of a diverse body of work for the now-defunct but still notorious company that danced across Canada for 10 years.

In 1991 she formed her own company, Fujiwara Dance Inventions, to house the development of her solo projects. To date her six solo dance concerts, Spontaneous Combustion, Vanishing Acts, Sumida River, Elle Laments, Brief Incarnations and Komachi have garnered praise across Canada and have toured to festivals in the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. Her recent forays back into ensemble choreography resulted in Conference of the Birds, a work for 9 dancers and 3 musicians that was called, “– the best thing to premiere at the (fFIDA) festival in many a year”, and NO EXIT, presented by DanceWorks in 2007, “- so precisely performed it needs no words.” by the Toronto Star.

Fujiwara’s approaches to the disciplines of dance technique, improvisation, performance and choreography have developed over more than three decades of intensive research, practice and performance. She has had remarkable mentors including Tokyo Butoh master, Natsu Nakajima, Montreal dance pedagogue, Elizabeth Langley, the now disbanded Mangrove Dance Collective of San Francisco, the American theatre director, Anne Bogart, and the late great Canadian choreographer, Judy Jarvis.

In addition to her career as a dance artist, Ms. Fujiwara works in film and television. Walls, a CBC Television documentary about her life and work by celebrated filmmaker Jeremy Podeswa, won the 1995 Gemini Award for Best Performing Arts Program. In 1997 she co-founded the CanAsian International Dance Festival where she is the Artistic Director. Her work with CanAsian promotes the work and development of dance artists from across Canada and beyond.

Source: Fujiwara Dance Inventions

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