In it for the Long Haul: an interview with the multi-faceted dance artist and member of the love you long time collective, Tanya Crowder

… on her upcoming production of no guarantees / no refunds

April 29 – May 1 at 8pm

at the Winchester Street Theatre

Regular Ticket: $18

Student/Senior/CADA/Arts Worker Ticket: $14

www.danceworks.ca or (416) 204 1082

Interview by Lucy Rupert

What is the collective aim of love you long time?

Our collective aim as individual artists is to diversify our audience by collaborating on show production. It is also to bring our work to a larger stage/presentation platform than our usual grassroots performance opportunities. We mentor one another in our creative processes if necessary, and we provide a mixed program of eclectic works that are precise in their execution, yet playful and rebellious in content.

How did the collective form? And how did the three of you decide you were the right three people for this project/collective/time?

The collective formed through an association with the Dance Matters series of which I am the producer and artistic director. I have presented Jonathan Osborn’s work several times, and Allison Peacock has been featured in his work as a collaborator.

Initially, Jon and I discussed the possibility of doing a shared program featuring our own works. Then Jon suggested we add Allison because he thought she’d be a good fit artistically. We’re all at similar stages in our careers, but have followed unique paths as artists. It has never been our intention to collaborate artistically, as our voices are distinct and individual. Our aesthetics are clear and focused, but very different. By showing these pieces on a mixed program, we encourage a more interesting dialogue.

The collective is a support network.  It creates an opportunity for our work to be seen by a larger and more diverse audience.

The changing nature of the field seems to be that we are merging and dissolving in our producing and creative partnerships; is this the potential for love you long time, or are you aiming for something more permanent?

Most mid-career artists work on a project-by-project basis. As times get more difficult, it’s important to collaborate on our projects.

I like partnerships that are fluid – a partnership can exist to aid a particular project or it can be long-term. love you long time collective is not static. It is also not the only partnership that I engage in to create or produce/disseminate my work.  I am happy to embrace different types of partnerships with a variety of people.  Sometimes my creative curiosity leads me towards wanting to work with various artists in reaching a project’s goal or intent.  And then there are times when I don’t want to collaborate on a production or project at all!

Tides shift in the community a lot – project-by-project work is happening more often … likely as a reflection of the economy and our society. I also think that people are starting to see the value in multiple collaborations for different projects. It facilitates more work; creates larger audience numbers; generates camaraderie among artists and disperses the workload of self-producing.

Now for your work in the upcoming production: what parallels do you see between the three Charlies (Chaplin, Brown and your own creature)?

My choreographic process began with creating postures, movements and gestures. Through that initial process a character emerged that I named Charlie. It wasn’t until later that I saw some connections between my creative process and the study of physical comedy.

I became interested in the cathartic nature of the Charlie Brown cartoon and character.  We laugh at his misfortunes and identify with the daily conundrums he faces. I wanted to create an episodic piece where the character was placed in a variety of environments or faced challenges. I envisioned this character as a star of a variety show, who portrays aspects of himself in various ‘skits’, or imagined scenarios.

I played a lot with the body and how posture reads to an audience. After studying hours of footage of Charlie Chaplin and Charlie Brown, I was able to add their physicality to my repertoire of body postures and gestures. I modified their physicality and re-created it in the way MY Charlie character would embody these movements.

I riffed off of scenarios seen in both Chaplin and Brown shows/films.  I worked them in a different way, but retained some of aspects of why those situations were tragic or funny or even tragic/funny. This type of study could continue for me for a long time!

Is delving into character-based work new to you as a dancer/choreographer? What has taken you there, or took you there in the first place?

I studied theatre for most of my youth and moved towards dance full time by grade eleven. I attended Canterbury Arts High School, and although I studied dance outside of school hours I was a theatre major for grades 9 and 10. I then re-auditioned for the dance program and switched majors. It was tough and I was really behind in my training compared to the other dancers. I was told, however, that I had something unique – theatricality and a very athletic physicality.

I discovered early on that I enjoyed making dances. My first choreography was reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin in a way – it had a 1930’s feel. I wore a suit and hat, the music was Edith Piaf.  The piece was called La Peine de Vivre – so poetic/dramatic, right? I was a teenager enrolled in an arts school when I made it, so I suppose there is no surprise there.

From very early on, I choreographed work with a sense of discovery. Oddly, I think the more “technique” I got, the less interesting my pieces became. I feel that in the last few years I’ve reverted back to that sense of “not knowing anything” and creating from a place of curiosity and discovery, rather than putting out stuff I know how to do from class. But I enjoy using the various techniques I have trained in: contemporary, contact improvisation, release, various floor work techniques and somatic practices. I use these techniques to create movement that suits the piece I am building.

In Charlie (The Charlie Show) when I put in a section of “dancey bits” I usually want it to feel like, “OK now, here is the dancing bit’” and use it in a tongue and cheek kind of way.

For awhile my works were always dark, but this one is not as dark, at least not on the surface. There are definitely layers underneath that are not just fun and games: if you choose to see them.

You are an instigator in the Toronto dance field for sure; someone who has been trying to get things going in lots of different ways, at least over the years I’ve been in Toronto. What drives you to do so many different things: producing, curating, dancing, choreographing, solo performance, group performance, teaching, administration and collective-building? (and probably a half-dozen other things I don’t even know about!)

What drives me? Honestly, I think it’s boredom … ! I really like being creative and brainstorming and working towards a project or goal – so when I am not dancing a lot, my brain gets going and I come up with ideas about how to make things better/more interesting in the community, or for projects with which I am involved. I guess you could call me an idea person – definitely not the money person behind entrepreneurship that is for certain.

Choreography – I can’t help myself, I usually make solo work on myself. I have been known to do the odd (and by odd, I mean every once in a while) group piece, and duet. I’m not sure why, sometimes it’s to do with money, but often when I create (especially for solo work), I work really intensely and would find it hard to have someone else do my process – my solo work is very physical and it is not always fun for the body at first – and then it’s super fun, but that transition is challenging.

Collective building – is out of the desire to do commissions or work that is not self-solos. Some collectives, like this one, are to facilitate show production and support.

I would love to do more commissions – I have done some group work, but it would be cool to have the challenge of creating a work on a different body within the solo realm: if there is a dancer interested in a rigorous creative process.

Producing – came as a way to make a living without having to always work as a waitress or caterer. I still do odd jobs, but the administrative/production work helps. It has also given me a huge skill set in being the administrator and producer for my own work.

Dance Matters came out of a brainstorming session, which followed not getting a job at an audition. I wanted to create another option to show your work in the city. I felt that too many amazing artists were overlooked because they didn’t have the time or skill to produce their own show. Also, a mixed program diversifies the audience and creates a greater sense of community through sharing a performance platform. It creates opportunities for audiences to meet new artists.

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